If last weekend was a feast then this weekend was almost certainly a famine, with Exeter’s dimished card on Sunday being the only British jumps meeting to survive the elements.
The action at Naas and Punchestown helped keep the show on the road, with the Willie Mullins-trained Elimay putting up a taking performance at the former course to beating Shattered Love, who was in receipt of 5lb, by a comfortable five and a half lengths.
All roads now must surely lead to the inaugural Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham next month, where it would seem the most likely opposition to her will come from within her own stable.
I have three selections for Monday, all running at the rescheduled Warwick card.
2.20 Warwick: Guernesey at 10-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power
Guernesey is a horse that has been in my tracker since arriving from France.
His second place at Wincanton last time, on his first run in a handicap, was a significant step forward. In hindsight it was also probably mission impossible given that the winner, Friend Or Foe, ran off a mark of 128 and now only one run later is up to 146.
Guernesey still gets to race here off the same mark of 115, which makes him of obvious interest at double-figure odds.
In addition, it appeared that the primary objective of his last run was to get him to settle and jump better to help him see his race out properly, which he duly did.
If he can carry what he learnt there forward to this assignment it’s reasonable to expect him to be far better than his current mark.
3.55 Warwick: Gala Ball at a general 16-1
Both Dan Skelton and Phillip Hobbs are double-handed in this and while their perceived first strings are to the fore in the betting it is their perceived second strings that interest me more.
Spiritofthegames has been a thoroughly consistent horse for the past three seasons but found the step up to 3m beyond him last time.
I think dropping back to 2m4f off a 1lb lower mark with Lorcan Williams claiming a valuable 3lb will enable him to go close. However, I’m concerned that this could just be a prep race to get him spot on for a spring festival.
I have no similar concerns over Gala Ball.
His last run was disappointing but he found himself in a three-way tussle for the lead on that occasion and his jumping fell apart. It meant he was never able to hold his position and it’s also possible that he might have sulked a bit.
I think a return to softer ground is a big plus for him, as is the lack of too many front-runners. I can see him sharing the lead with Aso.
His second place at Newbury in November is as good a piece of form as anything in this race and yet the market seems to have completely overlooked him. At a general 16-1, I make him a solid each-way selection.
4.30 Warwick: Mr Washington at a general 6-1
Mr Washington has been a revelation since joining the excellent Tom Symonds and seeks a fifth successive win.
I think there are solid grounds to think there is possibly more to come. His win last time over course and distance didn’t seem likely at any point because after being settled in quite an exaggerated last place he had to be driven quite strongly to get to a position from where he could challenge. Despite that, he still found enough reserves to battle to the front close home.
I expect him to be ridden marginally closer to the pace this time, which could well see him to better effect. His last win was also his fourth run inside seven weeks and so it’s possible that a break of six weeks will see a fresher horse once again.
I’m hopeful that off just a 3lb higher mark he can continue to find progression to take this and keep up his winning sequence.Fancy winning a 50" television, a 12-month Racing TV subscription, a Reclining Armchair plus much more? Click here to enter our Ultimate Cheltenham At Home competition!
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