By Richard Hoiles
The wonderfully diverse nature of racing is that even whilst the focus on the Festival becomes increasingly intense some of the smaller meetings can still throw up performances which suggest potential for future stars in the making.
An example of this was Exeter last Friday, when the blustery wind and holding ground made things not for the faint hearted.
That did not stop two excellent efforts. Firstly by a Paul Nicholls unraced seven-year-old in Master Tommytucker who, judging by the size of him, had for years been singing for plenty of suppers.
Despite his inexperience he would have more readily despatched the 125-rated Molineaux but for a final flight blunder that could well have scuppered his chances. Instead, once balanced, he readily regained the lead in the style of a very promising horse who could soon be making up for lost time.
The other performance that will live long in the memory was the ride Sean Houlihan gave Unwin VC, an equally substantial debutante in the bumper.
Lining up on the outside Bob Buckler’s charge put on a right show pulling and plunging and looking virtually out of control.
A debut however that could have ended in disaster ended in triumph due to Houlihan’s terrific strength. Not just in anchoring the horse and dropping him in behind the field in last but then also managing to preserve enough energy to allow Unwin VC not just to mount a challenge but sustain his effort to record a victory that had looked impossible just a couple of minutes earlier. One of the rides of the season so far.
The weather has again tightened its icy grip so with Lingfield looking the most likely to be on the four selections all come from there.
Many of the horse’s best performances have come over this course and distance and he remains below the mark he won off at the track last March.
He ran well enough at Wolverhampton last time to suggest he is still in form and on the previous start looked unsuited by making the running (usually held-up) under an inexperienced apprentice. Expect a much better showing.
You have to feel a bit sorry for a horse as consistent as Emenem that since his last run he has lost his 50 Cents!
Given time to recover from that gelding operation his versatility could make him value against the more talented but fragile Abe Lincoln, who probably has more ability but has had issues and hold-up tactics in small fields can be tricky to execute at Lingfield.
Hit form at this time last year when winning four on the bounce.
While this would be a new career high winning mark, this time of year the horses are spread pretty thinly on the All-Weather and current wellbeing can count for a lot.
Yet another from the Simon Dow yard that looks to have been found a decent opportunity.
He is dropping back to the mile trip which seems to suit him better than the 10f he ran over last time when he failed to last home.
Prior to that run he had not run at Lingfield since his maiden days, when he arguably showed the best form of his career.
His rider is very inexperienced but at least this time is up against fellow apprentices as opposed to fully fledged riders.
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