If any of us needed a reminder of the magnetism of jump racing, then Frodon provided it with his superb all-the-way success at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Lugging more than 12st on rain-softened ground on his return tun, the eight-year-old put up a superb exhibition of jumping and galloping to prevail under Bryony Frost.
It made for a heart-warming 6min 33 sec and here’s to plenty more similar sights to stir the soul over the coming months.
One of the joys of the winter game is that star names can pop up anywhere at any time, including on bread-and-butter Mondays. That is the case this afternoon with Minella Indo, denied by Champ’s dramatic late surge in the RSA Chase in march, making his return at Wexford (3.15pm).
He faces a straightforward task, which will be reflected by his SP. Hopefully, at least one of the quintet below can get the job done at bigger odds.
The lightly-raced grey is chasing bred and switches to fences/handicap company having learnt a bit about the game in two bumpers and three spins over hurdles.
He won in both spheres and don’t be too alarmed by the fact he pulled up when we last saw him, at the start of February, as he lost his action between the last two flights when in the process of running creditably behind Kalooki at Wetherby.
Lemon T’s siblings include Mac Aeda, who won off a mark of 125 over fences, and bigger obstacle should bring out the best in him, too. His initial mark of 113 may well underestimate him and, encouragingly, Ruth Jefferson’s runners in the past month have either won or given a good account.
2.35 Leicester: Dashing Roger at 9-2 with bet365 and a lay of Ascension out of the frame
This race could get expensive for me because in addition to backing Dashing Roger, I’ll be laying Ascension out of the frame before and, perhaps, during the race.
Ascension’s form figures speak volumes for his consistency and he’s only 3-1 to win but the strong traveller doesn’t look like he wants a yard further than 7f to me. He tackles an extended mile here, having previously alternated between 6f and 7f, and an honest gallop looks on the cards.
Hartswood is probably the right favourite after his recent exploits in victory and defeat at York, but Dashing Roger also arrives in excellent heart and pulled almost four lengths clear of the third when nabbed late on by Tom Collins at Pontefract last time (watch above).
That run also showed Dashing Roger is at home on a testing surface and his 4lb rise looks warranted. Cue Ascension nudging him out of second spot close home!
3.45 Leicester: Only The Brave at 6-1 with bet365
This has been a breakthrough year for Archie Watson with the Group One success of Glen Shiel fresh in the mind, but I suspect the trainer still gets a lot of pleasure out of reviving the fortunes of low-grade horses he picks up from other trainers.
Only The Brave, an £11,000 purchase in February, looks just the type who will improve for the touch of Watson, having been something of an underachiever in Ireland for the past couple of years.
Once rated 74 on those shores, he makes his British bow off just 58 and there’s no denying he is well-treated on the pick of his form.
Moreover, Watson and the capable Brodie Hampson are a potent force when teaming up in races for amateurs, such as this. They have combined 27 times and won, or finished second, on ten occasions.
3.55 Newcastle: Armed at 9-2 with bet365
William Buick has not given up in his pursuit of Oisin Murphy in the jockeys’ championship and, while the odds are stacked against him, Armed is one of eight rides for him at Newcastle on Monday. He’s had only 13 previous rides at the track in the past five seasons.
Buick last rode Armed in a handicap at Newbury when he had a rating of 80 a couple of years ago; the combination not beaten far after not getting the rub of the green.
Armed has since been winless, switched stables twice and dropped 23lb in the ratings but he’s not had many chances to show what he can do for the Ian Williams yard and hinted he was anything but a lost cause when a solid third at Windsor last time.
Proven on the Tapeta at Newcastle and belatedly reunited with Buick, he rates a fair alternative at the prices to upstage the in-form George Ridsdale, the favourite.
4.10 Redcar: Round The Island at a general 11-2
The Richard Whittaker-trained seven-year-old is ending the season in fine fettle and romped home by almost four lengths at Pontefract last week.
It’s true that he has a soft spot for that track (six course wins) but he’s also shown his form at Redcar and, as a consequence, a 4lb penalty is unlikely to prevent him making a bold bid to follow up.
He’s at his best when he has a decent pace to aim at and promises to get that here, plus he will have the assistance of one of the most experienced riders in the field.
Dirchill and Wots The Wifi Code finished ahead of him when they met at Catterick earlier in the month, but that contest didn’t pan out for him and I fancy it will be a different story this time.
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