Our racing expert is hoping the excellent run of the Pipe stable can continue.
I’m going to stick with a winning combination for today’s nap, the David Pipe-trained and David Noonan-ridden SAINT JOHN HENRY in the 2m7f handicap hurdle at Bangor (due off 3.15pm).
The same trainer/jockey combination successfully teamed up with Twentytwo’s Taken at Exeter yesterday – tipped up here at 7/1, hope you were on? – and the stable overall is absolutely flying right now with eight winners on the board since the Cheltenham Festival.
The selection is Pipe’s only runner at the track and he knows his way round here, having twice won over track and trip. The latest of those was back in February 2015 and he lost his way a little after that, hitting the deck twice. However, he’s completed on his last three starts and strongly hinted at a return to winning form when finishing a close second at Warwick last time in first-time blinkers.
A reproduction of that effort would almost certainly suffice this afternoon against four out-of-form rivals, the best of whom may be Oliver Sherwood’s Weststreet, a winner at Southwell in December and likely to have benefited from a two-month layoff. But the selection looks to have far more going for him and his rider’s 5lb claim may be the deciding factor.
With the Pipe stable in such good form, you have to give serious consideration to both his runners at Ffos Las, although Pilgrims Bay (3.55pm) found disappointingly little (not for the first time) when asked for his effort at Market Rasen last time, finishing second of the five runners, and he’s a stone higher than when winning by a head (idled close home) at Wincanton in January. The hat-trick seeking Calculated Risk is therefore preferred.
But OBISTAR, Pipe’s other runner here, is far more interesting in the 2m7f handicap hurdle run earlier on the card (2.50pm). The six-year-old looked in need of the run when a well beaten fifth at Chepstow 19 days ago, so he should strip fitter this afternoon, and the handicapper has kindly dropped him 4lb to a mark of 110, which is just 2lb higher than the one he won off at Plumpton in January 2015 (3m1f, heavy). He’s not one to have your mortgage on by any means as he doesn’t do anything quickly, but he stays, is proven in the conditions (they’re calling the ground ‘heavy’) and this race won’t take much winning.
Of his four rivals, Highway Storm is perhaps the one with most scope for improvement on his handicap debut off what could be a lenient mark, but his trainer Rebecca Curtis is struggling for form, as has been the case for most of this season.