Six Tips, Three Meetings. Read Andy Holding's Friday Racing preview.
The race won by Beyond The Clouds at Kelso last month was by far and away the best novice hurdle run in the north so far this season, so in finishing a respectable fourth, BULKOV (best price 10-3) has to be of some interest in this slightly less taxing affair. Although he just didn’t have the natural speed to cope with the front two – who have both gone on to win easily since – he kept on well enough to suggest a race where the tempo isn’t so frantic would suit him better, so the fact that connections have rather wisely decided to run their charge at the stiffest course in this neck of the woods, should stand him in good stead on just his third UK start.
WESTERN JO (best price 7-2) may have disappointed a few when a beaten favourite at Carlisle last time out, but the figures suggest he actually ran just as well in defeat as he did in his previous victory over today’s course, so it would come as little surprise if he were to get back to winning ways on his return visit to the Cumbrian track. Prior to that excellent effort behind the strong-galloping Never Up, Sam England’s inmate had clocked a smart time when scoring with plenty in hand over 2m 4f, but as he’s plenty of solid form in the book over further in the past, a step back up in trip shouldn’t prove a barrier to his obvious-looking chance here today.
MEGABUCKS (best price 8-1) was a creditable runner-up to a useful sort trained by Alan King on his first outing for new connections 36 days ago and he’s strongly fancied to go well again on his return visit to the same C&D. Although he got done for toe by the winner late on, he kept on gamely enough to, in-turn, pull well clear of the rest, and with several in behind that day, including sixth-placed Honest Vic, going on to advertised the merit of the form subsequently, there’s every reason to feel upbeat about the chances of Henry Oliver’s inmate’s claims off what looks a workable handicap mark of 113.
If this race was staged at Uttoxeter, confidence would be sky-high that LUNAR FLOW (NAP) (best price 11-8) could follow up his tremendous performance at the Midland venue last time out (2-2 at track), but either way, he still makes plenty of appeal considering he still has plenty in his favour. Showing a good deal of grit and determination 33 days ago, the son of With The Flow just pull out that little bit extra in the latter stages to fend off the persistent challenge of the well-backed Audacious Plan, and given what that horse has gone on to achieve in his next two starts, the performance reads even better now than it did at the time. Moreover, both the well-beaten pair, Miami Present and Powerful Symbol have also boosted the form line subsequently and with today’s small field likely to allow him an early uncontested lead, Jamie Snowden’s charge should be a tough nut to crack around a track that often rewards sound-jumping front runners.
Jockey bookings and the market suggest Platinum Warrior is the one to be with from the Micky Halford stable, but at the same time, it would come as little surprise to see PIENTA (best price 12-1) go well on just second outing for the Co Kildare handler. In the race where his more experience stable mate finished a creditable second, the Liaison gelding caught the eye further back in the field and if it wasn’t for meeting severe trouble in running just when he was getting up a nice head of steam approaching the furlong pole, he may have actually troubled the front two home. Sure to have benefitted both mentally and physically from that initial outing, this tall, rangy colt should know more tonight to ensure he’s a big player from his favoured inside draw.
CURLY GIRL (best price 13-2) has the ability to drive even the most patient punter up the wall, but at the same time, she’s showed on several occasions that she’s more than capable of winning a race if the cards fall in her favour. A mile on soft ground at Leopardstown last time out was always likely to stretch her resources to the limit and so it proved, but prior to that effort, she’d gone really close to landing a couple of similar maidens over tonight’s C&D. On each occasion, the Vale Of York filly couldn’t be faulted by her commitment to the cause, and with both speed figures suggesting she’s run up to a pretty high level, a repeat of either performance should ensure she hits the frame at the very least.