Our resident tipster likes a trio of runners at Taunton, including a 10/1 shot.
Taunton provides today’s jumps action and as always at the Somerset track it is competitive stuff.
Decent prize money helps in that respect and I’m hopeful the £6,330 on offer to the winner of the 2m handicap hurdle (3.10pm) will go to the connections of THE BROCK AGAIN. Paul Nicholls’ charge came over from France with a tall reputation following a couple of flat wins on deep ground and ran a cracker on his British debut when third in a decent handicap at Sandown in November 2014. He then finished a disappointing third when sent off even money favourite for a Listed hurdle at Haydock just 13 days later, but that race may have come too soon for him and he’s since had a breathing operation.
This is his first run back but you can rely on Nicholls having him ready and the stable is back firing on all cylinders after an unusually quiet December, with six winners since the turn of the year, including a treble at Doncaster last Friday. The selection is likely to go chasing at some point and is built for that game, but he should be up to winning a hurdle off his current mark of 123. That fact won’t have been lost on the champion trainer, who can boast a 32% (30-95) strike rate with his hurdlers here.
The big danger is last year’s winner Pull The Chord, who scored again on his reappearance at Exeter back in November but lines up today 15lb higher than 12 months ago as a result. The 12lb he concedes the selection may prove decisive.
Somerset-based trainer Alexandra Dunn is having a phenomenal season with 11 winners already on the board, equalling her total from last term, and a couple of those have come here, including 8/1 scorer Winged Express at the last meeting here. Her overall record at the track stands at eight winners from 44 runners (18%) and a £1 level-stakes bet on all her runners would have yielded a tidy profit of £22.25.
Clearly that makes her three runners this afternoon of considerable interest and she is double-handed in the closing 2m handicap hurdle (4.10pm) with Lough Derg Island and ENTRY TO EVRYWHERE. The latter looks the better handicapped of the pair and should handle the ground, so he’s solid each-way at the forecast 10/1.
But I’m more interested in his stablemate TACTICAL MANOUEVRE, who is making his debut for Dunn in the 2m3f “national hunt” novices’ hurdle (2.10pm) after three runs in Irish point-to-points. The five-year-old would have likely won on the last of those as he was leading and hopes are high that he can make an immediate impact over hurdles. His trainer, who writes a weekly column in the RFO, has been eulogising about him for a while now and she is expecting him to run well today after a “niece piece of work last week”.
It might be asking a lot for him to win first time out after over a year off but the stable is flying – two winners and a second in the last fortnight from just seven runners – and this is not a particularly strong contest, with Fergal O’Brien’s Grand Introduction looking the one to beat.