By Tony Calvin
With both jumps meetings subject to early morning inspections - at the time of writing at least - it is off to the all-weather we go once again.
The Jumps cards could well beat the imminent “Beast from the East” - but it makes sense to concentrate on cards we know will definitely go ahead. Unless there is fog.
And to be honest, you cannot properly study more than two cards in a day.
Well, I suppose you could if they were full of small field novice chases. Racing really does have a problem on its hands with those.
I do not think I have ever seen a more unsatisfactory race, on any level, that Cyrname’s Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton on Saturday.
And on Sunday, we were presented with a match for a novice chase at Fontwell worth £12,660 to the winner – zero surprise to see Paul Nicholls provide one of the runners, and scoop the pot as his horse’s main rival unseated at the second - and on Monday we have a four-runner race at Plumpton, which is at least one more than the equivalent race at Ayr.
Something has got to give, and soon.
Anyway, off to the sand, where, admittedly I will be keeping stakes to a minimum. And the prices are a bit shorter than I like to play at.
No prizes for originality but Bernie’s Boy has a lot going for him.
He has won his last two starts at this course over 5f and 6f, but he has loads of form at this seven-furlong trip, and over further in the past, so that will not be an issue.
It was a strong handicap he won a few weeks ago, so he still looks competitively weighted off a 6lb higher mark. I thought he would be favourite so the 9-2 is very fair.
I am wary of Mansfield, who has first-time blinkers in addition to a hood. The stable are only two from 29 with this fresh headgear since 2006, though.
Paddy A is not particularly well drawn in 10, but I think he is worth siding with all the same.
He did not get the run of the race when third at Chelmsford last time, when tried in a first-time visor which is retained here. I fancy his chances this time off the same mark.
The form of that race was given a boost when the fourth, Arlecchino's Leap, won next time out and he does have some good runs at this track to his name, albeit in a maiden in September 2016. The 6-1 is tempting enough.
Ice Canyon has run three solid races since joining Mark Brisbourne from Michael Halford, and this could be his chance to get his head in front.
He was rated 90 at the peak of his powers in Ireland and is now down to 72, and a reproduction of either of his course and distance efforts should see him on the premises here.
He can be keen but hopefully regular pilot Eoin Walsh can get him to settle a bit better.
Or maybe allow him to stride forward from stall one, as he did press the pace on occasions in Ireland. The generally available 8-1 surprised me.
Big Lachie bounced back to form when winning at Newcastle last time, and has obvious prospects of following up off a 4lb higher mark in the 5f handicap.
Indeed, he is still 3lb lower than winning over 6f here in 2016, and that is basically the case for him. His odds of around 7-2 are fair, but I prefer the claims of Dougan at a general 15-2 in the previous race at the price, albeit it looks a hot heat.
Dougan ran a race full of promise on his first start since October when eighth at Wolverhampton this month, always playing catch-up from his wide draw and not given at all a hard race. Whatsoever.
The handicapper has dropped him an exceedingly generous 3lb for that eye-catching run, and he will surely strip a lot fitter this time.
He has put up a couple of his better efforts at the course, and he looks weighted to go very close off just 90. He has numerous good efforts to his name off much higher marks, and that run last time really hinted at better things to come. The stable’s last six runners have form figures of 113172.
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