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It’s safe to say that there are no future stars in the opening maiden hurdle and given that likely favourite Barrichello has a habit of letting his supporters down, there could be plenty of value against him. Fete Champetre is one of two bumper winners in the race but he offered no apparent excuse for his poor showing in a maiden hurdle at Kelso in late December, when beaten 18 lengths on that day.
The other bumper winner in the line-up is NOT WHAT IT SEEMS, who won on his UK debut at Sedgefield in early December after some good bumper showings in Ireland. He started off his career with a fourth-placed effort at last year’s Galway Festival, finishing just 5 lengths behind third-placed The Banger Doyle, and he followed that up with second-placed efforts at both Tramore and Bellewstown.
He only got as far as the third hurdle when unseating rider on his jumping debut at Catterick, but that wouldn’t be a worry and his trainer Micky Hammond is holding his own lately – with four winners in the last fortnight. Judged on his Doncaster effort, Up For Parol looks the main danger but this looks a winnable race for Not What It Seems and there’s every chance that he could be sent off at a much bigger price than he deserves to be on form alone.
It’s been a mixed season for Rose Dobbin and after a disastrous January, when she trained no winners from 15 runners, things are slowly starting to come back her way. There’s also every chance she can continue her decent start to March by winning this maiden hurdle with CAILIN DEARG.
Like Not What It Seems earlier on the card, it’s the Irish bumper form of this six-year-old which stands out. Her seventh-placed effort behind Brooklyn Glory reads better than most might think, with the winner subsequently following up with two excellent efforts. That was good enough to put her in the mix for next week’s Cheltenham Bumper, and the fifth-placed Ciao Bella won at Fairyhouse last Friday.
After that Listowel effort, Cailin Dearg won a mares bumper at Wexford and, while she steps up to 2m 5f here, she managed to win a point-to-point over three miles last March. Hunny Moon has been running consistently this season and is likely to go off favourit, but with the good ground also in her favour -being by Getaway – this looks a really good opportunity for Cailin Dearg to strike on her UK debut.
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It’s hard to believe that, having finished placed in the 2019 County Hurdle and having run in the last two Greatwood Hurdles on the week before the Cheltenham festival, COUNTISTER finds herself running in a 2m hurdle series qualifier at Wetherby. But, that’s horse racing for you!
Despite still only being a nine-year-old, JP McManus’ charge is now running off a mark of 120 when she ran in the 2019 Greatwood Hurdle off a mark of 141, and the most intriguing aspect about it is that she’s only had four runs since. As well as plummeting down the handicap ranks, there are two major factors which suggests that we might see the real Countister at Wetherby.
The first is the fact that she’ll be running on ground better than soft for the first time since April 2019 and all of her best runs have come on a sound surface – including her third-placed effort at the 2019 Cheltenham festival. In fact, she even finished second in a Grade 1 Bumper in France on good ground, which highlights her liking for fast conditions.
The other factor which will help her chances here is the addition of cheek pieces, which can often revitalise a horse which has been out of sorts. There are some in-form runners standing in her way of glory, including Pay The Piper, while Chti Balko is similar to Countister in that he is dropping down the ladder after scaling bigger heights.
However, if there’s one handicap snip between now and the Cheltenham festival, it’s Countister. If she’s to win a race this season, then there’s every likelihood that it will be on Monday.
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