Happy New Year all, may your 2014 be profitable. We’re hoping to kickstart the year with a bang and have two selections to attack for Cheltenham’s fantastic New Year’s Day card.
Harry Fry is a trainer to respect when sending horses out into a handicap for the first time having racked up a 33% strike rate with them since setting up on his own following a spell working with Paul Nicholls. Mendip Express is a horse that has caught our eye this season and he can further enhance Fry’s record with the newbies in the Foundation Developments Ltd Handicap Chase at 12:45.
The eight-year-old fell on his only start for Paul Nicholls over hurdles at Wincanton in October 2011 but has been a real star in point-to-points for trainer Richard Barber winning seven times before joining the Fry team for a career over fences. He won doing handstands at Wetherby by 12 lengths and then followed that up with a very impressive success at Bangor a month later. In both his wins, it was hard not to be taken with the way he attacked his fences and the staying power he possesses at the line.
That Bangor win is looking more solid by the day after the third came out and won last week.
There is a hope that perhaps this novice could potentially be a RSA Chase contender if the racecourse whispers are to be believed. If he is of that class, the he really should be winning off a mark of 139, a weight that will be reduced by the fact that with regular rider Will Biddick takes of 5lb because of his claim.
This is a very hot renewal of this staying handicap and there are plenty of horses who could still be ahead of the handicapper, most notably De La Bech for the in-form Philip Hobbs team but with conditions likely to be very testing it’s hard not to rate the chances of the selection. Punters should be getting on with a two point stake.
Elsewhere today, and there are a couple of classy races from around the country that should give us more pointers for the Cheltenham Festival. Oscar Whisky and Taquin De Sueil lock horns in the feature novice chase at Cheltenham while Annie Power put her unbeaten record on the line against Zarkandar in the Dornan Engineering Hurdle.
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