Thursday’s sole jumps card at Carlisle is a humdrum affair that leaves a lot to be desired from a punting perspective. Indeed, it is hard to find a selection to enthuse over on a day when the highlight has to be the lunchtime publication of the five-day declarations for next Wednesday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
In the countdown to Cheltenham, the jumps action leaves plenty to be desired, but perhaps Henri De Boistron can strike on a dull card at Catterick on Wednesday. The loss of Fontwell’s midweek meeting on the same day has left punters with valuable time to mug up on next week’s Cheltenham Festival action.
Exeter’s Tuesday card is an interesting one and features the Devon National Handicap Chase (3.30) over a stamina-sapping three and three-quarter miles and despite the anchor of top weight, seasonal debutante Merlin’s Wish is taken to add to his tally of long-distance chase successes.
It’s desperate stuff over the jumps on Monday with two bottom of the barrel meetings at Fakenham and Southwell. Trainer Lucy Wadham is usually a force to be reckoned with at the former course and she may well have found a winning opportunity for her useful young chaser, Artifice Sivola, in the handicap chase (4.00) at the quaint Norfolk venue.
Nicky Henderson has given his local course at Newbury a wide berth on Saturday, preferring to send out his only two runners at Doncaster where the well fancied Call The Cops can make the journey north a rewarding one by landing the handicap hurdle (3.20) at the South Yorkshire track.
A lack of quality characterises Newbury’s seven-race card on Friday but Jonjo O'Neill has ridden to the rescue with Minella Rocco, who made a few eyes water with a deeply impressive debut at Kempton the other day, and the former winning Irish pointer can defy a penalty in the novice hurdle (2.30) at the Berkshire course.
Lizzie Kelly’s finest hour in the saddle came upon Tea For Two, who she rode to a thrilling success at Kempton last month, and the aspiring young rider can enjoy another success in a breakthrough season courtesy of After Eight Sivola, who runs in a competitive handicap hurdle (3.50) at Ludlow on Thursday.
There has been a sweet kind of symmetry about Jonjo O'Neill’s recent return to form, with Cheltenham on the horizon and Aintree soon to follow, the stable is happily back among the winners and likely to enjoy another success courtesy of Mackerye End in the handicap hurdle (3.20) at Bangor on Wednesday.
Roll on Saturday’s jumps racing might well be the most sensible response to Tuesday’s cards at Catterick and Leicester, but the action is always lively at the latter track and in the first of the two hunter chases (3.20), the tough and consistent Palypso De Creek can follow up his recent Wetherby success.
The best is saved until last at Ayr on Monday as the lightly-raced No Deal looks another Scottish-based winner for trainer Lucinda Russell in the staying handicap chase (4.50) at the West of Scotland course.