Our racing expert marks your card for Thursday's action.
Harry Fry has a terrific record with his hurdlers at the Devon venue – he’s had 17 winners from 44 runners (39%) for a profit of £36.75 to £1 level stakes – and I fancy his IF THE CAP FITS can enhance that record further when he runs in the opening novices’ hurdle.
The winner of his first two bumpers last season before finishing a highly respectable fourth in the Listed bumper at the Grand National meeting in April (did too much to early), he is expected to make up into a smart novice hurdler this winter and this looks as good a place to start as any.
It’s no cakewalk, mind, as he’s up against Enniscoffey Oscar, who finished second in the aforementioned Aintree bumper, along with a couple of potentially nice recruits from the Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard stables in Blu Cavalier and Golden Sunrise respectively. Indeed, this is a race that could throw up plenty of future selections – add all horses mentioned to your tracker – but I do think the selection will prove too good on this occasion.
The handicaps are even more competitive but I’ve a feeling we are going to see a much improved display from HOKE COLBURN when he runs in the 2m2f handicap hurdle. A winner of a Southwell bumper in May 2016, he showed definite promise in three hurdle runs last season, doing best when third of seven at Hereford in October. Unfortunately, after his third run he came down with the virus that affected his stable in the second half of last season and he never saw racecourse again.
However, he’s reported to have made a full recovery and it’s interesting that his trainer Harry Whittington is pitching him straight into handicap company off what is an exploitable mark of 111, rather than go down the maiden hurdle route. With Bryan Cooper booked to ride and the stable starting to bang home the winners (3-9 in the last fortnight), he’s crying out to be backed at double-figure odds.
Olly Murphy made a fantastic start to his training career back in July and while the winners have eased off a little in the last few weeks, that has to be expected as a lot of his summer horses are coming to the end of their season and need a break. Fortunately, he has a decent squad of winter-ground horses to go to war with in the coming months and it would be no surprise to see him coax a win or two out of SANDY COVE (NON-RUNNER).
Formerly with James Eustace, who trained him to win seven times on the Flat at up to 1m6f before giving him a try over hurdles this summer, doing best when third of ten at Stratford in June, he has reportedly (according to Murphy’s Betfair blog) been working well at home ahead of his stable debut.
Dropped 3lb since his last spin over hurdles at Uttoxeter in July, his new rating is the absolute ceiling of this race and it could prove to be a case of shrewd placement as while he has 14 rivals to beat, many are hard to fancy on recent form. With the capable Fergus Gregory taking a very handy 8lb off his back and the change of scenery also likely to have done him some good, he has to be worth a bet.