It's the jumpers at Southwell that have caught the eye of our racing expert.
The in-form Tom George has a 1-3 strike rate at Southwell and therefore all his runners at this evening’s meeting are worth considering.
The Gloucestershire-based trainer has sent out 14 winners from 45 runners here in the last five seasons and backing all of them would have resulted in a small profit. Sadly we’re not going to get much return from his Dexcite, who is no bigger than 2/11 to follow up his recent Bangor success in the “national hunt” novices’ hurdle (8.05pm), but thankfully his other runners are far more backable.
He runs VALSEUR DU GRANVAL in the 2m4f handicap chase and the seven-year-old should go close with a clear round. It was his jumping that possibly cost him a race at Kempton last time, when beaten just over three lengths into fourth, but he was much better in that department when scoring at Towcester previously by 17 lengths. A repeat of that effort will make him hard to beat and he can reverse form with Lucky Jim, who finished a couple of places in front of him at Kempton last time but who was flattered by his proximity to the winner.
A bigger danger looks to be bottom weight Queen Spud, who showed she was in good heart when finishing second at Fakenham last time out and gets 12lb from the selection.
George’s GRAND ENTERPRISE contests the 2m4f handicap hurdle on the card (7.05pm) and the six-year-old should appreciate the step up to this trip after a staying-on fourth over 2m at Ludlow last time. That was his his best effort to date in four starts over hurdles and he looks nailed on to land a handicap off his current mark.
This is competitive, mind, and Nicky Henderson’s Native Display is feared as he’s been in good form of late and the stable is flying. However, he didn’t find an awful lot when asked for his effort at Worcester last time (second) and he gives the selection 2lb.
Henderson and George supply the first two in the market (currently) for the closing bumper in Take To Heart and Bomber Command, who are priced at 5/4 and 9/2 respectively with bet365. But there appears to be a little money around for both Malcolm Jefferson’s Frobisher Bay and Ben Pauling’s Calva D’Honore, who has an interesting pedigree and is tempting at 7/1, but I’ll leave the race alone for betting purposes.
The final bet is running in the mares’ maiden hurdle (7.35pm) with Richard Johnson an interesting booking for the Neil Mulholland-trained WHATSTHATALLABOUT – the champion jockey has a 19% strike rate on the stable runners. Having shown some promise when finishing fourth (of 15) in a Kempton novice two starts back, the daughter of Milan was backed to win a similar race to this at Bangor on her next start and she surely would have gone close but for falling four out when disputing third. Providing that incident hasn’t effected her confidence, she can make amends over today’s extra half mile, which should suit given her pedigree. Her stable could not be in better form with seven winners in the last ten days.