Our racing expert marks your card for Wednesday's action.
Small fields are in evidence at Ludlow due to the prevailing fast ground, but there are some interesting betting opportunities nonetheless.
The feature 3m1f handicap chase will see seven go to post and they are headed by Tom George’s Kilbree Kid, who is chasing a hat-trick after winning his last two starts at Perth over 3m. He’s not opposed lightly but this slightly longer trip might just stretch his stamina to the limit – he was all out last time – and he also has a further 5lb rise to overcome.
Emma Lavelle’s SET LIST is coming into this on the back of a fall at Stratford, which is not ideal, but he was soon up on his feet that day and there was nothing wrong with his jumping when successful in a handicap chase at that track previously off just a 4lb lower mark. A fair sort over hurdles, with his third behind Tea For Two on his debut at Kempton the highlight, this former point-to-point winner was always going to be better as a chaser over this sort of trip and, providing he’s none the worse for his mishap last time, this looks a good opportunity for him to resume winning ways.
Last year’s winner Azure Fly may give the selection most to do as he’s undeniably well treated on a mark 8lb lower than 12 months ago.
Just five horses have been declared for the novices’ limited handicap chase but there are some progressive sorts amongst them, including Master Dee and I’dliketheoption, who were separated by just half a length when first and second at Newton Abbot on August. The winner has been beaten since at Bangor off his revised mark (made too many mistakes) and, up another 1lb since, he now meets the runner-up on 3lb worse terms.
It should be close between them but I’m going to take a chance on Kim Bailey’s ASCOTDEUX NELLERIE being fit enough on his return to action after 166 days off. A similar absence didn’t stop him winning a novices’ hurdle at this track last October, having won a bumper on his debut here previously, and he also ran well to finish third in another novice at the track in March after a four-month layoff. He can be forgiven his only poor run at Doncaster in November, when strongly fancied, as he broke a blood vessel. On that evidence, he looks the type who is best fresh.
Another summer at grass would have done the now six-year-old the power of good and it’s interesting that his trainer is pitching him straight into handicap for his chasing debut, rather than start him off in a beginners’ chase. It’s just a theory but Bailey must think he’s on a fair opening mark (125) and may well have prepared him to win what is a decent pot (£8,758 first prize) at a track he clearly likes (form figures of 113), with no worries over the ground either. At 7/1, I’m happy to pay to find out.
The third and final pick, the Ian Williams-trained GOODWOOD MOONLIGHT in the 2m handicap hurdle, is more of a hunch than anything and a market check is strongly advised as I’d be concerned if he’s a big drifter. But the four-year-old is making his handicap debut after showing very little in his three hurdle starts so far and he could be well treated on a perch of 85. That he has some ability is undoubted as he was a winner on the all-weather back in January (when sent off favourite) and he also ran well on the level at Goodwood in the summer (1m1f), finishing second of the 15 runners.
His stable not adverse to having a tilt at the ring and if he’s ever going to win over hurdles it’s likely to come at a tight track like this one and on fast ground, giving him every chance of staying. That connections are fitting a tongue-tie for the first time also suggests he’s not just having another run out and provides an excuse for the improvement in form at the inevitable Stewards’ enquiry, should he oblige (another theory). Last week’s Bangor winner Tempuran is the obvious danger under a 7lb penalty, but he’s a skinny-looking 11/8 and gives the selection 19lb.