This pair of Towcester runners could improve for today's better ground.
Punters need to tread carefully over jumps at this time of year with the ground starting to firm up and those horses who have been getting bogged down on deep winter ground likely to pop up at big prices.
The ground at both of today’s jumps meetings is riding “good” and we could be in for a few surprises. I like to look for horses with next no form next to their name with either a decent jockey up or hailing from in-form yards. And I’m hoping I’ve spotted a potential improver in the shape of DEXTER BENJAMIN, who is making his handicap debut at Towcester (4.00pm) for the trainer / jockey combination of Nick Gifford and Tom Cannon.
The six-year-old has had just the four starts under Rules, including a pulled up effort here on his hurdles debut on soft ground back in January. Before that he’d been sent off favourite, suggesting he’d been showing something at home, when finishing fourth in a Fontwell bumper in November and he again finished fourth (of eight) last time out at Plumpton on ground that was described as heavy. It’s hardly earth-shattering form but the upsides to that is that he can be pitched into handicap company on a potentially good mark of 100.
Okay, I’m banking on today’s faster ground bringing about some improvement but that does seem likely as he’s out of a Presenting mare and that sire’s progeny due tend to like better ground. Other positives are the application of a tongue-tie for the first time and stable form, with the trainer’s last runner Prouts Pub obliging and his flagbearer Generous Ransom running well to be third at the Cheltenham Festival. It’s also a race that won’t take much winning with none of his 11 rivals looking sharply progressive, so all in all he looks worth chancing at the 8/1 on offer, each-way way if you’re the more cautious type.
Another horse who has been waiting for better ground is Jennie Candlish’s DOUGALSTAR and, while he disappointed at Huntingdon last time when well supported, he looks worth another chance in the 3m handicap chase run later on the card. His form figures going into his last race were FPP, so fifth place was a definite improvement, and the six-year-old is surely capable of much better.
Having shown some promise in his novice campaign, including a fourth (of 13) at Fontwell behind World Hurdle winner Cole Harden no less, he finished third on his handicap debut off a mark of 97. Things haven’t gone to plan since, largely on account of the ground, and he can line up today off a parent of just 72, meaning he gets weight from all bar one of his rivals. He’s still got to do it on the track of course and he’ll have to jump than he did last time, but this is a pretty terrible race and if he can’t go close today there’s not much hope for him. Keep the stakes small, mind.