Our resident tipster is all over this trio of runners at Plumpton
The top jumps stables are never adverse to running their best horses at Plumpton and this afternoon’s card is no exception.
There’s a £50,000 bonus in offer for any horse that wins a chase at the track and then goes on to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival and it would be no surprise if connections of LE MERCUREY, who makes his debut in the 2m3f novice (1.30pm), had such aspirations. The five-year-old ran in the Martin Pipe race at last year’s festival, finishing a creditable seventh of the 21 runners on his third and final start for his current stable, but he was always going to need more time to acclimatise and chasing was always going to be his game.
A winner twice over hurdles at Auteuil, which are more like miniature fences, he has the potential to take high rank amongst this season’s novice chasers and his trainer Paul Nicholls likes him a lot. He said in a recent Stable Tour (November 9): “Now I’ve started to get stuck into him and hope to see him fulfil his potential as a novice chaser. I’m confident he’ll leave last season’s form well behind. He’s been schooling well and is about a well away from a run.”
If that’s not a ringing endorsement for his prospects, I don’t know what is and the good news is we get to back him at 6/4 due to the presence of previous winner Violet Dancer, who is penalised, and a potentially useful sort from the Alan King stable, Inner Drive.
There are even better bets elsewhere on the card, starting with Oliver Sherwood’s MCKENZIE’S FRIEND in the opening novices’ hurdle. He can be backed at 5/1 due to the fact that he’s up against Nicholls’ Brave Jaq, who is a shade of odds-on, and Itsnowcato, who won on his debut for Ben Pauling 14 days ago. The latter had quite a hard race and even his trainer admitted afterwards that he might need some time to get over it, so it’s a surprise to see him out again so quickly. Brave Jaq might have finished second on his hurdle debut at Chepstow last month had he not been brought down, but his trainer has described him as a “backward sort” who is a future chaser. In short, they are both opposable.
The selection is making his hurdles debut, admittedly, but he’s shown considerable promise on his two bumper starts, including when finishing a close second in the valuable bumper run at Newbury in March behind The Unit, who is very highly regarded by Alan King. He may well have won that day had Leighton Aspell had given him another crack of the whip, but his kindness is likely to pay off in the term and his trainer clearly thinks he has a big future in this sphere. Again using a Stable Tour as a reference, Sherwood described him as a “real streetfighter” who jumps well at home and also said: “I’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t win his two hurdle races.”
By that he means his novice and another under a penalty and it’s a measure of his faith in the horse that he hopes to run him in the valuable EBF Final later in the season. At the current odds, he’s an each-way bet to nothing.
The 2m4f handicap hurdle for amateur riders (3.05) is more competitive, but that means we can get a price on the third selection, the Anthony Honeyball-trained THE GEEGEEZ GEEGEE. He would have needed his comeback run when fourth at Chepstow last month and his trainer is in even better form now, with a couple of winners in the last fortnight from just a handful of runners. Both were ridden by today’s pilot Mr DG Norman, who is 4-10 on the stable runners this season.
The selection has run several good races over hurdles and it bodes well that his sole victory to date came over three miles on soft ground at Taunton, as stamina will be at a premium in this afternoon’s conditions. He does have his quirks and ran out under his conditional rider at Worcester in May with the race at his mercy, However, he’s been on his behaviour on his last two starts and I recall his trainer making him his ‘trainer’s pick’ in a Stable Tour (he has plenty of nice sorts to choose from!) and saying he’d be disappointed if he didn’t pick up a nice handicap this season.
He’s surely worth a go then in this fairly low-grade contest and any market confidence would be highly significant as he’s owned by a racing club – they will all be on!
I was going to leave it at that but I can’t resist including the Warren Greatrex-trained VINCIAETTIS as I think he will justify favouritism in the closing bumper (3.35pm). The yard is starting to hit top form now and does particularly well in these type of races, with Saturday winner Penn Lane the latest to do the business. Greatrex’s strike rate in this sphere is a very healthy 28% (43-156) and he clearly likes this fellow, saying (October 29 Stable Tour): He’s a fine, active horse at home who goes nicely and jumps well, and will start off in a bumper before working from there. He’s pleasing me.”
He’s already won one of these – his sole Irish start at Limerick in March – and carries a penalty here for that success, but so does his main challenger and Fontwell winner Fountains Windfall.