I couldn't really have got Friday's race more wrong if I'd tried, but when two of the first three home were 33/1 and the trifecta paid over £5,300, I'm guessing not many people did call it right.
Saturday's feature of the day is the excellent Trainer/Jockey combo report and our free races of the day are scheduled to be...
- 12.25 Bangor
- 1.40 Thirsk
- 3.10 Curragh
- 5.30 Brighton
Of our four feature races, only the first looks like not having a very short-priced favourite so today's focus falls upon the 12.25 Bangor, a 10-runner, Class 4 Handicap Chase for 5yo+ horses over 2m1½f on Good ground and one of the following will earn a prize of £3,594...
Swift Crusador sits second in the Geegeez ratings probably because he showed signs of a return to form last out when third in a higher grade over 2m4f at Wetherby. If truth be told, he'd struggled for a while before then and hasn't won a race since early December 2018. He might well be down in class and five pounds lower than that last win, but I don't see him triumphing here off top weight.
Pistol Park hasn't won a race since landing a 5-runner contest at Carlisle exactly and glimpses of any sign of another success have been few and far between since. He did finish second to an in-form rival back at Carlisle in February, but has disappointed since. That said, he's now on a career low mark and if running like he did three starts ago, he could sneak into the frame here.
Crooks Peak hasn't tackled fences in his last eight outings and has only been sent chasing three times in a 23-race career so far. He last jumped fences on his last run for Philip Hobbs when 2nd of 7 at Kempton over 2m2f in a higher grade than this and when you consider than he was only beaten by 1.25 lengths off a mark of 128, you'd have to consider him worthy of a chance here off 112, especially as he's now with Team Skelton, who are in great form right now and have a good record at this venue.
Elixir du Gouet was quite well respected in France over both hurdles and fences, but has suffered a bit of a stop/start time here in the UK, racing just three times in the last two years and being beaten by 51, 124 and 61 lengths respectively. I'd look elsewhere today.
Casa Tall won races over hurdles in France, but only made the frame twice in seven runs over the smaller obstacles after his move to the UK. He was a bit sketchy over fences on his first couple of attempts but got round move times and then showed some promise when only beaten by 6 lengths last time out. He's down a couple of pounds now and if continuing to improve, could get involved.
Discko des Plages won over fences at Catterick in mid-December despite not jumping well at all, but has run consistently well in five outings since, although he did unseat his rider when leading at Uttoxeter in February. He goes off the same mark as when runner-up twelve days ago, but with Brian Hughes taking over in the saddle, will be expected to be there or thereabouts again.
Tierra Verde won a couple of hurdle races in 2018 before taking 18 months off and has tackled fences just three times, finishing 4th of 14 (bt by 4.5L) and most recently 2nd of 14, going down by just a neck. She also ran in a bumper between those chase outings and was only 1.25 lengths off the pace in third place. She'd be of serious interest, but for stepping up in class and being some 12lbs worse off than LTO as she now runs off 106, but she had a 7lb claimer on board when she ran off 101 LTO.
Some Spin won a 2m maiden hurdle in Ireland last July, but has finished 899P0 since. The P was his only effort over fences when pulled up before 2 put over 2m at Class 5 two starts ago and was 10th of 15, beaten by 23 lengths over hurdles LTO. Not for me here up in class.
French Kiss has made the frame just once in fourteen career starts (5 flat, 4 A/W, 4 hrds, 1 chs) and ran out after the ninth fence on chase debut at Newton Abbot earlier this month. Easy to dismiss here.
Secret Melody finally got off the mark at the nineteenth time of asking last time out (8th over fences) by winning here at Bangor over course and distance, but that was eight months ago and he now races from 3lbs outside of the handicap. That said, he is the only C&D winner in the field, none of his rivals have won here at all and he is carrying virtually no weight. There's no guarantee he'll fire after a long lay-off, but if kicking on from that win, might be involved again.
At this point, I'll admit to already deciding that I certainly don't like four of them here, namely Elixir du Gouet, French Kiss, Some Spin and Swift Crusador and hopefully Instant Expert will back me up, where due to the lack of winners I've selected the place form...
There we get a reminder of Pistol Park's weight difference here and we do have some splashes of green, but nothing to push me towards/away from any runner in particular, if I'm honest.
I'v looked at the pace angle here and I'm told that you either want to lead the field round or you want sit towards the back, getting caught neither here not there hasn't been a successful tactic here in previous contests...
So, Secret Melody looks like the one to lead them out, but there's the obvious danger of him not staying the trip after eight months away from the track, whilst Crooks Peak is likely to be near the back, which could well be ideal for him to pick them all off late on.
For me, Crooks Peak is the one to beat here. I know we have to take his jumping for granted after hurdling for a while, but you can be sure the Skeltons will have schooled him well. After that there's a handful of runners who could all make the frame, despite seeming to be unsuited on race profile...
Casa Tall / Discko des Plages / Pistol Park / Secret Melody / Tierra Verde...
...and I think I might have to look at who has the fewest red flags and go with the ones I have least reservations about, which leads me to Discko des Plages and Casa Tall for the places.
I'm not surprised to see the bookies in fairly relative agreement with me, as Hills have installed Crooks Peak as the 5/2 favourite here. To be honest, he should be winning this, but it's not a shoo-in and I was rather hoping/expecting to get at least 4/1 about him.