O’Hanrahan Bridge will be a tough nut to crack if on song after his layoff but Irish point winner GRANDADS COTTAGE shaped very much as though today’s stiffer stamina test will suit when going close in a Stratford bumper in March and is selected to make a winning hurdle debut. Franks Fancy and Itsnotyouitsme should also feature, while Gaston Phebus is an interesting recruit from an Irish point.
Pretty good cases can be made for Castle Robin, Quick Draw and hurdling debutant Jetaway Joey but ECLAIR D’AINAY was deemed worthy of a crack at a Grade 2 novice after his promising British debut in 2018 and, although that venture didn’t go to plan and we haven’t seen him for 671 days, he could still have significant untapped potential. Irish point winner File Illico will enter the reckoning if solid in the betting market.
Elf De Re, Notre Pari and Protektorat all have the potential to win some nice prizes over fences this season. Their best hurdle form came over further and on slower ground than is expected today, however, and while the stiff track will help and they are still very much respected, conditions could tip things in favour of MALYSTIC. He’s a good-ground bumper winner who showed rock-solid form in 1m7f-2m3f maiden/novice hurdles last winter. Protektorat was the best of these over hurdles and is feared most.
The Nicky Richards-trained RIBBLE VALLEY sets a strong form standard, despite conceding weight all round, and is taken to make a winning return to action. The lightly raced Nickolson could be a tough opponent, however.
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A strong pace in this big field should be ideal for handicap newcomer OFF THE BEAT, who is the selection ahead of Ashjan for whom the return to better ground is a likely plus. The progressive No Regrets is third choice, with Kaizer and Flamboyant Joyaux others who could run well. Mon Port, Nautical Star and Getaway Mag may all have untapped potential for their powerful southern stables.
Damiens Dilemma comes here at the top of his game but a recent 4lb rise might be enough to leave him vulnerable as he attempts to complete a hat-trick and it could pay to take a chance on the other 12yo, BORIC. Simon Waugh’s gelding hasn’t won for ages but comes here fresh, and produced one of the best performances of his career at this track. Lough Derg Farmer is also suited by this track and will be dangerous if fully tuned up after his layoff.
King’s Wharf has been hit by the handicapper since winning at Hexham but importantly should have his optimum conditions (good ground), and there was much to like about the chasing debut posted by Victory Echo at the same Northumberland venue. However, there is the real prospect of plenty more to come from the second-season chaser OSCAR WILDE (nap). The suspicion is that he remains nicely handicapped after edging out a now 126-rated rival at Sedgefield in January.
He is yet to threaten over hurdles but APPLE ROCK has been running on soft/heavy ground under rules, whereas his second to Shishkin in an Irish maiden point came on good going. Back on a better surface today, this unexposed 6yo can make a winning handicap debut. Fellow handicap newcomers Piggy Winkle, Capac and Boreas Duke should be monitored in the betting but Arnica and Folks Like Us have more substantial form claims, with Arnica feared most.
The Racing Post’s Tips at Carlisle on Thursday
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