Our racing guru cast his eye over proceedings at Huntingdon.
There’s a small but select field for the Listed 32Red Sidney Banks Memorial Novices’ Hurdle (due off 3.05pm), with the first four in the betting all holding decent claims.
Final Nudge has been keeping good company since completing a double in November, but the others have more scope and NORTH HILL HARVEY looks the one to be on. Dan Skelton’s charge built on his promising debut second to Barters Hill (winner of a Grade 1 since) in a novice here when winning readily over 2m1f at Cheltenham in early December. He had decent sorts behind that day and connections were quick to mention this race as a possible target before a possible tilt at the Neptune in March – he’s a top-priced 33/1 with Sky Bet for that 2m5f Grade 1.
The 4lb penalty he picked up for winning that class 3 means he is giving weight away to Ma Du Fou, who is chasing a hat-trick after picking up minor contests at Ffos Las and Bangor, and Minella Awards, who may have beaten the highly regarded Champers On Ice at Newbury last time had he jumped a little better and represents last year’s winning trainer Nicky Henderson. Both are exciting and are given plenty of respect but the selection will relish stepping up to this trip and his jumping, which was very good last time, could be the deciding factor.
David Pipe has his string ticking over nicely and VAZARO DELAFAYETTE, his sole runner this afternoon, could keep the good run going in the limited handicap chase for novices (2.30pm). The seven-year-old hasn’t been seen in public since getting off the mark over hurdles when thrashing Spookydooky by eight lengths in a handicap hurdle at Newbury in November 2014, presumably due to injury.
However, such an absence is rarely a problem for stable runners and it’s interesting that Pipe is pitching him straight into handicap company on his chase debut, possibly because he thinks he’s well treated on a mark of 108 – the aforementioned Spookydooky ran off 142 when finishing second at Haydock in December, so he may well be right. With the betting suggesting he is fully wound up for his reappearance, the son of Robin Des Champs rates nap material.
Alan King’s bumper runners are always worth a second look a decent his MY KHALEESI looked a ready-made winner of such a race when finishing a close second (of 17) at Warwick in November. She looked a shade unlucky not to score that day as she was denied a clear run and had to be switched inside the final furlong, with less than a length separating her from the winner at the line.
Having had a “good break” since according to her trainer, who continues in fantastic form, I’m full of optimism that she can go one better in division 1 of this afternoon’s bumper (4.15pm), especially as she receives a handy 7lb from previous winner Royal Debutante, whose presence ensures we get to back her at a tasty 3/1.