Our racing guru is hopeful this trio of runners can boost the weekend betting bank.
Dan Skelton would have had high hopes for Irish point-to-point/bumper winner WALKING IN THE AIR as a hurdler this season, so it was disappointing to see the six-year-old finish only fifth on his debut at Exeter in November when sent off favourite.
However, he had an excuse that day as he seemed to lose confidence after being impeded early on and conditions were particularly testing. An impressive winner of a Warwick bumper last season, the form of which is working out, he is worth another chance when he runs in this afternoon’s 2m3f novices’ hurdle at Wetherby (due off 3.35pm). He had several entries this week but this looks by far his best opportunity as he gets 7lb from the penalised Lake View Lad, the only previous winner in the field. Skelton, who also runs Cobra De Mai in the opening juvenile – can boast a 1-3 strike rate with his hurdlers at the track.
It is has been a disappointing season so far for the Alan King-trained NED STARK after the promise he showed last season, but he could turn things around in this afternoon’s 3m handicap chase at Newbury (3.50pm). The eight-year-old was landing a hat-trick at last year’s Newbury Hennessy meeting and, having won a Grade 2 novice at Wetherby in January, was sent off as 6/1 favourite for the 3m handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He could only finish eighth of the 24 runners but that was a very competitive race and the ground was perhaps faster than ideal.
Form figures of 68P this season suggest he’s gone backwards but, to be fair, he wasn’t helped by being badly hampered at the first when sent off favourite for a handicap over track and trip just after Christmas, and he’d previously run well for a long way in the Hennessy won by stablemate Smad Place. He will find today’s class 3 company far less taxing and, having worked well last week according to his trainer, who is hoping first-time cheek-pieces help him concentrate, he can get to winning ways and put himself in line for his ultimate target, the Grand National.
The 2m handicap hurdle for conditional jockeys that opens the Kempton card (1.10pm) looks tricky to say the least, but there are grounds for thinking the Nick Williams-trained SKY LINO is well treated on what he’s shown in three runs in juvenile company. The four-year-old was admittedly beaten a far way into third behind a couple of good sorts on his debut at Chepstow but that was still a promising effort, and he stepped up on that when chasing home Sikandar at Bangor next time out, despite having run loose for about one mile beforehand.
That suggests he’s not entirely straightforward and he does need excusing a poor display on his latest start at Cheltenham in December, when trailing home in fourth of the five runners. But something was clearly amiss that day and having been given a good break since, he should do better now he steps into handicap company for the first time off what is potentially a lenient mark of 113, with Lizzie Kelly taking 3lb off. What’s more the stable does well with it’s runners here, boasting a strike rate of 28% (5-18) for a level-stakes profit of £11.88.