A nice 10/3 (SP 3/1) winner to kick off our week and we also had the first four home. Sadly my 1234 finished 1423, but you can't win them all.
Next up is Tuesday, of course and the 'feature of the day' is the Shortlist report which highlights horses running in conditions that they have previously performed well in, whilst our 'races of the day' are as follows...
- 2.15 Wetherby
- 2.30 Taunton
- 5.10 Newcastle
The middle of those three races above is another of those open-looking heavy ground affairs that I like to take on, so today's focus is on the 2.30 Taunton, an 8-runner, Class 2, handicap hurdle over two miles and half a furlong on the afore-mentioned heavy ground. The winner will take home £9495 and will be one of the following...
Pic D'Orhy heads the weights here, but is only 4lbs higher than when winning the Grade 3 handicap Betfair Hurdle over this trip at Newbury just over a year ago. He hasn't tackled a hurdle since and hasn't looked the same horse over fences, but does drop in class.
Has plenty of good hurdles form on very soft/heavy ground in France and has won at trips ranging from 1m7f to 2m2f. If hurdling like he has in the past, will be a major player here and he hails from a yard with a 29% strike rate (40 from 138) over hurdles here at Taunton since 2016, including 17 from 55 (30.9%) for jockey Harry Cobden.
King Roland won both his bumper starts and has finished 212 over hurdles so far, the last of which was in a Grade 2 contest at Cheltenham 13 months ago where he was just 2.25 lengths behind the winner and the same distance clear of the third placed horse Protektorat who has finished 1122 over fences since.
KR hasn't raced over hurdles since that Cheltenham defeat, though, firstly taking 9 months rest and then making a chasing bow where he finished third beaten by almost seven lengths after attacking the race a little too keenly. With a run like that last one at HQ, he's right in the mix here.
Masters Legacy makes just a fourth career start, having finished 211 so far, all over hurdles here at Taunton. He was beaten by 2.25 lengths on debut in mid-November 2019 over 2m1f on good ground at Class 5, before opening his account over the same track and trip (C4, Gd-soft) four weeks later. That was followed by a similar break before winning another Class 4 contest, this time over 2m3f on soft ground.
He's up two classes here and tackles heavy ground for the first time, but he does look a progressive type and his yard are 11 from 44 (25% SR, A/E 1.41) over hurdles here since the start of 2018. My major concern with this one is the fact he is coming off a break of 413 days.
Rockadenn has only ran twice in the UK before now, finishing 2nd of 6 (beaten by 6.5L) in a Class 2 hurdle over 1m7.5f on heavy ground at Haydock, just over a year ago and then ran out at the 5th over fences at Musselburgh just over a fortnight ago upon his return.
That doesn't inspire confidence, but he did sign off his French career with four straight wins (3 x chs, 1 x hrd) over trips of 2m0.5f to 2m4f on very soft or heavy ground. In fact he's only ever run in the mud!
Totterdown is one of two ten year olds in this contest and has won four of his sixteen hurdles races including three from six on heavy ground and four from fourteen at 2m/2m0.5f, but that's where the good news ends, as he's been below par this season.
He was last of three in October on his comeback from a near 10-month absence, he fell 4 out at Ffos Las and then was beaten by a combined 72 lengths in two outings over hurdles. He tends to be a bit too keen and likes to lead but generally weakens late on.
Getaway Fred has won just one of his eight starts to date and that was a Class 4 novice hurdle back in November 2019. Hasn't ran well this season so far in three Class 3 chases, being beaten by 52L, 6L and 52L and although he handled heavy ground well enough on his only attempt, I'd not be rushing to back him here, stepping up in class and hurdling for the first time in 11 months and hailing from an out of form yard that has had just 3 winners from 81 over the last two months and whose hurdlers are 1 from 52 over the last 11 weeks.
River Bray is an unreliable, temperamental sort, but doesn't lack ability if you can get him to run. He's often reluctant to race/get involved but has behaved a little better of late with two decent runs at Wincanton over 1m7.5f at Class 3.
He was only beaten by three quarters of a length off this mark last time out on similarly heavy ground and did manage to make the frame on his only previous visit to Taunton way back in December 2017. He was a runner-up on soft ground that day, going down by just 0.75L in a 14-runner contest. The gamble here is what mood he's in. If he's up for it, you could be in the money, if he's not willing, you might as well burn your cash.
Pinson du Rheu is the second ten year old in the contest, he carries bottom weight and is another with very little UK racing under his belt, having raced here just the once. He was a useful jumper in France winning 5 of 33, albeit with a better record (4/24) over fences than he did over hurdles. All his French wins came on very soft or heavy ground at trips of 2m1.5f to 2m6f, so stamina should be fine.
Connections must think something of him to bring him over as a 9 yr old to make a UK debut in a Cheltenham Grade 3 last November, but sadly he didn't perform and was pulled up. My fears here are that he hasn't ran well for some time, the trip might be too sharp for him and it's more than 100 days since he was last seen. He'd be better over fences, I think.
Race suitability is assessed by Instant Expert, which record all UK runs, so I suspect that there'll be some gaps in our coverage here with a couple of these having very little/no UK form. The overall achievements in the UK by these eight runners stand at a respectable 45.7% place strike rate (32 from 70), including 20% winners (14 from 70). As ever, i expect the place element of Instant Expert to be more informative than the win element, so I'll put both up for you...
From the above, there's no getting away from King Roland's record at the trip, Master's Legacy at Taunton and Totterdown on heavy ground. There's nothing in the above to really put me off any of the runners, so time to assess race tactics and pace etc.
And the stats tell me that you really want to race prominently, but let someone else lead. They also say if you can't race prominently, you should be as far forward as you can, being held-up isn't a good tactic in these conditions, it's as damaging as trying to win from the front, as shown below...
That doesn't look good for either of Totterdown or Pinson du Rheu, but wouldn't necessarily end the chances of any of the other six here, although my previous two sections might have already done so!
I can easily remove Totterdown & Pinson du Rheu from my equations based on my write-ups and their pace profiles. Getaway Fred is in as bad a run of form as his yard right now and Rockadenn hasn't seen a hurdle for ages and when he does see one, he's better over fences!
So, I'm down to half the field, namely King Roland, Master's Legacy, Pic D'Orhy and River Bray. You can make cases for and against all four here, but I've got to take one of them away and I think the combination of top weight on a career-high mark tackling hurdles for the first time in over a year makes Pic D'Orhy the most vulnerable of the four.
This means my "three against the field" are King Roland, Master's Legacy and River Bray. To be honest, I don't see much between them and I suspect the market will reflect this and whilst I'm fairly confident that these are the best three here, I'm not super-confident of putting them in the right order. At this point, I can almost hear you shouting at me to pull my finger out, so if pushed I'd line them up as Master's Legacy / River Bray / King Roland.
The market has the three at 10/3, 13/2 and 5/2 fav with my discarded Pic D'Orhy as 5/1 3rd fav. I thought it might be tight!