We’ve teamed up with BetVictor and Charlie McCann to preview the day’s racing.
Richard Johnson notched the first double century of his career and is 20/1 with BetVictor to seal a magnificent campaign by being named ‘Top Jockey’ at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival in a fortnight’s time.
The champion jockey elect is Ludlow-bound this afternoon and add yet another winner to his season’s tally aboard Brise Vendeenne (4.15) for boss Philip Hobbs in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle. The selection has been the model of consistency this season, placing in all four starts, and can make it fifth time lucky stepping up in trip back to three miles.
Runners from the Rebecca Curtis yard have, broadly speaking, run poorly in 2016 thus far but Aurillac got his head in front on Saturday at Chepstow and Globalisation (3.15) can do likewise in the Novices’ Handicap Chase over two and a half miles under Sean Bowen.
The selection showed promise over hurdles last term and made a winning debut over the larger obstacles when scoring in similar company on his seasonal debut at Ffos Las. The six-year-old has disappointed in both subsequent starts but is now just 4lb higher than when getting his head in front in November and will benefit from the application of first-time cheek-pieces.
Sun Cloud heads the weights for a competitive renewal of the feature 3m Handicap Chase with Malcolm Jefferson’s nine-year-old sporting a first-time tongue-tie bidding to bounce back from last month’s disappointing effort in bottomless ground at Haydock. He would have an excellent chance of defying a career-high mark of 140 should the heavens open, however with the chase course currently described as soft-good to soft in places he is overlooked for Paul Nicholls’ Nexius (3.40) under Sam Twiston-Davies.
The selection was progressive last season with former handler Keith Dalgleish and made it second time lucky for new connections when landing a competitive novices’ chase last month over two and a half miles at Doncaster. The seven-year-old remains unexposed over the larger obstacles and this once 144-rated hurdle looks well-treated to defy an opening chase mark of 136.
The champion trainer boasts a terrific record at Taunton where he has won three of the last eight renewals of the 2m 3f Novices’ Hurdle, and is doubly represented with El Bandit under Nick Schofield and Beau Phil and 7lb conditional Harry Cobden.
Both are respected for powerful connections but preference on this occasion lies with Harry Fry’s Space Oddity (2.40) under Noel Fehily. The selection was a beaten favourite on his debut for the yard last month at Ludlow but should strip fitter for the run and is bred to relish the step up in trip.
The pair can complete doubles with A Plein Temps (3.15) in the handicap hurdle over three miles. The selection makes his debut handicapping from a mark of 108 after disappointing in a trio of Maiden Hurdles when well-backed to shed the maiden tag over timber at Market-Rasen, Exeter and Taunton respectively. Those efforts were when the stable were under a cloud however, and this point-to-point winner looks well-placed to make it fourth time lucky under rules.
Nitrogen must similarly go close for the pair in the feature 3m Novices’ Handicap Chase however David Pipe’s Vazaro Delafayette (3.50) is unopposable under a penalty and is a confident selection to follow-up last week’s Huntingdon success under Tom Scudamore.
The son of Robin Des Champs would have made a winning debut over the larger obstacles were it not for jumping violently left-handed in the final circuit but made up for it at the same track seven days ago and is officially 6lb well in at the weights under his penalty.
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