Our racing expert marks your card for Thursday's jumps action at Huntingdon.
Huntingdon is staging a cracking Listed Chase for mares over 2m4f and five of the six runners look to hold decent claims of pocketing the sizeable first prize of £42k for connections.
Of these, Desert Queen seems certain to try and make all as she loves to go from the front and she is 10lb better off with Antarctica De Thaix, who beat her nine lengths in this race 12 months ago. It should be close between them here but neither may win as they are up against a trio of younger mares who have been progressing nicely this term, with the pick of these being RENE’S GIRL.
Dan Skelton’s eight-year-old thrived since going over fences, with just one defeat in three outings, that being over a trip too short at Bangor two starts back. Her latest victory at Doncaster over a slightly longer trip than today’s was her most impressive yet as she jumped particularly well and won as she pleased (form has worked out well).
Skelton, who has always thought highly of her, mentioned the Grade 1 Manifesto Chase at Aintree as her spring target and the intention was to go straight there, so that she is being turned out for this is perhaps a good indication of her wellbeing/further progress at home. Kerry Lee’s Happy Diva, who is another on a hat-trick, may give her most to do.
Skelton could well double up later on the card as his MUST HAVEA FLUTTER is going to prove hard to beat in the 2m4f handicap chase under a 7lb penalty he picked up for winning in a canter at Market Rasen just four days ago. The ex-pointer was having just his second start over fences on that occasion and he clearly appreciated the step up in trip (2m3f), having found 2m at Leicester on his chase debut on the sharp side. The unexposed six-year-old is likely to go up by more than 7lb once reassessed, so he’s nicely in here and the quick return would suggest he’s been showing Skelton no ill effects from his recent exertions.
Nicky Henderson’s Rebel Commander sure to attract plenty of support when he makes his hurdling debut in the closing maiden as he was most progressive in bumpers and represents a powerful stable whose hurdlers have a 1-3 strike rate at this track.
However, his lack of experience is a concern and I’d much rather be with Alan King’s VOIE DANS VOIE, who has three outings over hurdles under his belt and simply bumped into one at Towcester last time. The winner Dr Dres had previously finished a close second in a Grade 2 at Ascot and was odds-on to score, which he duly did by six lengths, but the selection still emerged with plenty of credit and, according to King in his Weekender column, is ‘progressing all the time’. In which case, he’s going to take plenty of beating here.
The rest of the handicaps are decidedly tricky but one who might go well at a price in 2m contest is Caroline Bailey’s DYLIEV. Held up in a 2m novice here last time, he was spotted making good late headway into fifth (of 15) and that effort can be marked up further as the principles all raced prominently. That earned him a handicap mark of 103, which could prove a tad generous, and the fact Sean Bowen (five winners for the stable this season) is reuniting his partnership can be seen as a another positive.
All odds were correct at time of posting.