The Stuart Crawford team have made a good name for themselves under rules in recent seasons thanks largely to their exploits in bumpers and their Tyrella winner Double Scores could prove to be another winner for the yard in that sphere. The son of Double Scores showed plenty of pace to take up the running two from home prior to quickening clear of stablemate Jay Are in the Five Year Old Geldings Maiden at the East Down Foxhounds meeting last Saturday. Ben Crawford’s mount looks likely to head to the track now and on jockey bookings at least appeared to be the first string on Saturday.
Denis Murphy has produced some useful rules horses over the years from his CountyWexford base and Gold Man could prove to be another for the yard having won locally at Ballydarragh on Sunday. The son of Presenting belied his inexperience to see off Veripek by half a length under Jamie Codd and his next engagement could well be the sales ring.
Brownville’s Loughanmore outing last October received a timely boost if it were needed when Definitly Red won at Newbury on Saturday and Colin McKeever’s charge, who’d finished second in October duly obliged in the second division of the Five Year Old Geldings Maiden at Ballydarragh. The son of Kayf Tara marked himself up as a gelding with plenty of ability by quickening ten lengths clear of Little James and Full Throttle under Steven Clements and his trainer will surely be hoping that he is another Ballycasey who the trainer saddled for his pointing outings prior to his purchase by the Willie Mullins yard.
Leading Foxhunters hope Harbour Court makes his seasonal return at Kelso later today for the Alan Hill team. The eight year old has tasted defeat just once in his career when finishing runner-up behind Woodview Prince in a hot Intermediate event at Whitfield in 2012. Unlike many running at this time of year Harbour Court doesn’t need to win here to secure qualification for Cheltenham itself and he looks sure to come on for the run having declined an engagement at Brocklesby on Sunday (also entered for the postponed Cottenham fixture the previous day). It would come as no surprise here if James Tudor’s mount tasted defeat in this contest prior to taking the big event at Cheltenham and if that were to be the case then Sacred Mountain who beat last years Aintree Foxhunter’s winner and today’s rival Tartan Snow at this course last year and who made a successful re-appearance between the flags two weeks ago looks the most likely winner while Moscow Menace is one of a three strong team for trainer Katie Scott.
In Leicester’s Hunter Chase this coming Thursday Shy John looks to be a worthy favourite having taken a better race than this in comfortable fashion at Wincanton two weeks ago. That came on heavy ground and assuming the meeting survives he looks the one to beat under a penalty with regular pilot Peter Mason in the saddle. Dunraven Prince could give him most to think about coming off a Novice Riders victory at Black Forest Lodge a fortnight ago. The David Brace-trained gelding was partnered by the promising Sean Bowen on that occasion but the experienced Bradley Gibbs takes over here and with the jockey already victorious in this sphere this season he looks set to go well. Of the remainder Chief Heckler ran well on his return to action at Cottenham in December and he duly followed that up with another solid second at North Carlton where he had only the Stephanie Easterby-trained Ganbei in front of him.
In the Novices event at Fakenham this coming Friday the useful rules performer Brassick looks likely to be strongly fancied if taking his chance for the Angela Rucker stable. The gelding would have to carry top weight here but he ran a solid race behind That’s Rhythm and Walden at Musselburgh at the start of the month in an event that would be much better than this affair and the drop in trip looks likely to suit also.
At Ascot this coming Saturday two potentially useful jumps horses square off in a competitive looking Novice Hurdle over the minimum distance. Carraig Mor made a horrendous mistake at this venue back in November which put paid to his chances of maintaining an unbeaten record. The Alan King-trained six year old went into many peoples notebooks after taking a Ballydarragh Four Year Old Maiden in December 2012 by an easy three lengths and he followed that up with an easy success at Uttoxeter in November. He’s yet to race over a trip this short and suspicion is that both he and the Nicky Henderson-trained Full Shift who won at Milborne St Andrew in February 2013 prior to embarking on his rules career this season. There appear to be far pacier types in this event in the shape of Wilde Blue Yonder and in particular the mare Legacy Gold who was successful in a listed bumper at Aintree last season prior to being sold out of the Stuart Crawford stable.
In the concluding bumper at Ascot the most interesting contender looks to be the Alan King-trained Ordo Ab Chao. The five year old had looked booked for a place when coming down behind Definitly Red at Loughanmore at the end of October and that looks solid form given the winner is now unbeaten in two rules starts following his success at Newbury last weekend. Another ex-pointer Golantilla sets the standard from a form point of view following his third behind Briar Hill in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and he is another who looks set to go well.
A hot looking renewal of the Walrus Hunters Chase concludes the card at Haydock on Saturday and with the likes of Doctor Kingsley, Pearlysteps, What A Laugh and Freddies Return engaged it looks likely to prove to be a competitive event. Preference would have to be for Pearlysteps after his two easy successes in this sphere in recent weeks for rules trainer Henry Daly. Doctor Kingsley ran a solid race at Wetherby prior to being outpointed by Palypso De Creek while What A Laugh remains relatively unexposed having finished runner-up to Penmore Mill on his return to action just over a month ago. A win for either What A Laugh, Onetwobeat or Current Exchange would surely go down as a “home” win given their trainers relative proximity to the course and it will be interesting to see how the runners fare on the heavy ground.
A couple to note at Wincanton on Saturday are The Wealerdealer and West Cork Flash. David Pipe trains The Wealerdealer and having run respectably on two of his three Novice Hurdle outings this four time winning pointer looks set to make his handicap debut off a fair mark of 101 in the 2m6f Handicap Hurdle that opens the card. West Cork Flash has looked an out and out stayer throughout his career and having been upsides the useful pointer Adept Approach prior to unseating at Fontwell in May he could make his return to handicaps after in excess of 18 months away from them in this staying chase. Caroline Dennis owned, trained and rode the ten year old last season and now in the care of Paul Henderson (though still owned by Dennis) he looks likely to be partnered by a professional jockey for his return to rules racing which looks likely to come on ground that he handles well.
Sunday’s Dunraven Welsh Foxhunters Open Hunter’s Chase looks sure to be a competitive affair with sponsor David Brace having two of the eighteen strong field for the event. Cock Of The Rock won his first two outings of this season and finisheda solid fourth behind Rumbavu in the Lord Ashton Of Hyde’s Cup over 3m6f at Cocklebarrow on his latest outing last month while Silver Token was first passed the post for a Club Members event at Chaddesley Corbett in December. Of the other entrants Market Rasen winner Qualviro is engaged for the Tim Vaughan stable though the most likely winner does look to be Made In Time for Rebecca Curtis who reverted to this form of racing at Ludlow when runner-up behind Pearlysteps.
In the concluding bumper Doctor Phoenix could go for the David Dennis stable. The six year old son of Dr Massini was the impressive winner of a Five Year Old Geldings Maiden at Curraheen in November having fallen behind the useful Festive Affair on his pointing debut in January 2013 and he appears to have plenty of ability.
Lucette Annie and Kirkleigh are two of the names who stand out in the entries for the Taunton Hunter Chase on Tuesday however both also hold an engagement in a Mixed Open event at Buckfastleigh on Sunday. Lucette Annie scored in a mares event on her return to action while Kirkleigh hasn’t been seen out since finishing third behind Doctor Kingsley at Cheltenham on ground that would have been firm enough for him. Certain Flight won fairly easily in the end under Will Biddick at ChipleyPark last month and he looks the most likely winner on paper. Keith Cummings charge had the likes of All Great N Theory, Hameldown Tor, Current Exchange and The Midnight Club in behind on that occasion and he sets the standard of those who’ve been contesting points for this competitive looking event.