A couple of point winners making their Rules debuts, as well as a whole host of potential improvers, makes the opening novices’ hurdle at 12.20pm tricky enough for punting purposes. However, Count Meribel’s novice win at Carlisle took a nice boost on Friday as the second Kildisart ran away with a similar contest at Ascot, and he could be the bet as he doesn’t have a mountain to climb on form here.
Nicky Henderson has won two of the last three renewals of this novices’ chase at 12.55pm and could well do so again with Lough Derg Farmer, who is the sort to take to chasing (Irish point winner who had a light campaign over hurdles last season). As farmers know, though, you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket, and the other one that could be worth getting on-side is Creep Desbois. He is well regarded by trainer Ben Pauling and is another who could make a better chaser than hurdler.
Whatsthatallabout (who could have been named after Michael Owen’s statuesque ride in Friday’s Charity Race at the track) has an absence to overcome but was in excellent form when she was last seen, landing a hat-trick in a mares’ novice at Bangor. Her yard have seemingly emerged from a quiet period and she could be worth chancing here in the 1.30pm handicap hurdle.
The class horse here is the well-named Top Notch, who was a Grade 1 winning novice over fences last season before he finished an excellent second to the nutty-but-talented Yorkhill in the JLT at the Festival. Prior to that he’d won a graduation chase over this C&D, and he comes into the Christy 1965 Chase at 2.05pm having had a pipe-opener over hurdles at Aintree earlier in the month. He ticks plenty of boxes in receipt of weight from most of the field including his stable companion Josses Hill, who may emerge as his biggest danger.
It isn’t guaranteed that top juvenile hurdlers will turn out to be as good during their second seasons (see Peace and Co), but Defi du Seuil is different to plenty of other top four-year-olds in that he is National Hunt-bred and didn’t race on the Flat previously. This bodes well for him making the leap into open company this season, and he can start off a good season by winning the 2.40pm.
The Shawbrook Handicap Chase at 3.15pm could be as easy as ABC, as last year’s 1-2-3 all look set to re-oppose. Sire de Grugy could be the answer once again in a race seemingly lacking in well-handicapped types, though the second Quite By Chance does have a 4 lb pull in the weights this time around.
Like the recent racing headlines, this card is often dominated by Nicky Henderson and the closing bumper at 3.50pm is no different (he’s won two of the last four renewals), which bodes well for Malachite. He showed ability on debut at Worcester last time, is entitled to progress, and can copper first win here.