Our racing expert marks your card for Thursday's jumps action at Kelso.
Just the five runners for the 2m Morebattle Hurdle but it’s a tight contest nonetheless. Last year’s winner Cyrius Darius should again go well, although he has a penalty to overcome this time around and he might struggle to give 6lb to Chti Balko, who finished behind Katgary in a Haydock handicap last time but is much better off at these weights. Better Getalong, who won the bumper on the his card 12 months ago and has won twice over hurdles since, is another to consider.
However, the final pick goes to Richard Hobson’s DAME ROSE, whose form this season, which includes a Listed success at Newbury in November, puts her right up there with the best novice mares in the country. Her only blip came over in a Grade 1 over an extended 2m4f two starts back and she seemed far happier back over this trip at Doncaster last time, when finishing fourth to Maria’s Benefit. She’s in three races at the Cheltenham Festival and was also given an entry in Saturday’s Kingwell, but this assignment is more realistic and with no worries over the prevailing heavy ground, she can make the most of the weight she receives from her male rivals.
With Charmix hard to fancy on his poor recent form, the feature Ivan Straker Memorial Chase over a few yards shy of 3m should concern the remaining three runners. Of these, Hobson’s SHANTOU FLYER seems sure to go off favourite (6/4 at the time of writing) and deservedly so following his two fine second places in Grade 3 Cheltenham handicaps, which have coincided with the application of cheek-pieces. That form makes him the one to beat here and providing the headgear carries on working, I fancy he can take care of Seldom Inn and the novice Big River to get the win he deserves and give his small stable (and his rider Jonathan Burke) a memorable double in the process.
Rose Dobbin’s PLANET NINE looked like a three-mile handicapper to keep onside when getting off the mark at the fourth attempt over hurdles at Catterick earlier this month and, now he has started to improve, a subsequent 7lb rise is unlikely to stop him following up in this afternoon’s 2m7f contest. A £135,000 purchase at the Tattersalls Sales, he has taken his time to come good and there were still signs of inexperience on his handicap debut when he beat one who was 7lb well in. That was also a muddling contest that turned into more of a speed test and with the emphasis likely to be more on stamina this afternoon, he might show us what he is truly capable of. With his stable in flying form – 4-9 in the last fortnight – I’m not surprised he’s as short as he is.
Given the red-hot form of the Dobbin stable, it could be worth siding with her HITMAN FRED in the closing bumper. The winner of his sole Irish point start, he almost justified favouritism in a bumper here in January, going down by a head to a well regarded sort, and that experience will stand him in good stead in today’s conditions.
A £10 double on the two Rose Dobbin-trained selections at current bet365 odds (5/2 & 2/1) pays a tidy £105.00.
I managed to find the winner of yesterday’s Musselburgh bumper, Zakharova, putting up the 8/1 winner early doors at 16/1, whilst also nominating another 8/1 winner on the card in Mahler Lad. Hope you were on?!
All odds were correct at time of posting.