The Sunflower Day Nursery Handicap Chase (6.30) at Newton Abbot on Wednesday is a competitive little heat, despite just six runners, but Bang On Time has won three of his last four starts, including over course and distance eight days ago and must have every chance under a 7lb penalty. The Chevalier gelding seems a different horse from the one that was pulled up three times in four starts earlier in the year and he beat a reliable yardstick, Sergeant Dick, in good style over course and distance last time.
In fact, Richard Woollacott has once again secured the services of conditional jockey Paul John, whose 7lb claim effectively offsets the 7lb penalty, so it’s hard to argue that Bang On Time isn’t at least reasonably handicapped. He appears to act on any going, except perhaps very firm, so he has plenty in his favour, despite the ‘steadier’ of 12st 5lb. I’m afraid I’m missing something here, but he looks extraordinary value for money at 7/2 with Sky Bet and Coral in the very early price lists.
Selection: Newton Abbot 4.30 Bang On Time to win
The Betfair Huxley Stakes (2.40) at Chester on Thursday is a fascinating contest, in which it’s possible to make a plausible case for each of the seven runners. However, Fattsota is fully effective on a sharp track, having won over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Ripon twelve days ago and over 1 miles 2 furlongs at Epsom two summers ago, and may be capable of recording his first success at this level.
Certainly, David O’Meara’s seven-year-old looked better than ever when making all to win a Class 2 handicap at Ripon by 8 lengths last time and, having record four of his six career wins with ‘soft’ in the going description, could lead this field a merry dance. He may face competition for the lead from Maverick Wave but, although John Gosden’s four-year-old won his maiden at Leicester on good to firm, the pick of his turf form has come on soft and heavy going, so he may find underfoot conditions on the fast side.
Fattsota is officially the highest rated horse in the race, albeit by just 1lb, and with no qualms about the course, distance or going, he looks outstanding value at around 11/1 in the very early price lists. He’s more exposed than most, but that also means he has fewer questions to answer and he fully deserves some ‘black type’.
Selection: Chester 2.40 Fattsota to win
In the Kirkley Hall Ltd Zoological Gardens Handicap Hurdle (3.10) at Hexham on Monday, Michael Scudamore sends Dan Emmett on the 566-mile round trip to Northumberland from his Bromsash yard as his sole representative of the afternoon and the hint looks worth taking. The Flower Alley gelding has run creditably in defeat on all three starts over hurdles and looks reasonably treated, off a mark of 120, for his handicap debut.
His best form, so far, has come on good to soft and soft going but, while underfoot conditions are possibly faster than ideal, a few light showers are expected in North East England on Sunday and connections will, presumably, withdraw him if the going becomes too fast. So far, he’s been tried at 2 miles, 2½ miles and 3 miles over hurdles without success but, as a winner over 2 miles on the Flat, 2 miles 4½ furlongs should be ideal for him, especially with the steep climb from the end of the back straight at Hexham likely to play to his strengths.
Jockey Tom Scudamore presumably had the choice of riding for David Pipe at Newton Abbott or Kempton, so his decision to head north is also highly encouraging as far as Dan Emmett is concerned.
Selection: Hexham 3.10 Dan Emmett to win
In the Totepool Handicap (4.00) at Chelmsford City on Wednesday, Tacticus recorded two bloodless victories over 1 mile 4 furlongs at Southwell last month, but has never won on any surface other than Fibresand and takes a significant rise in class off a 13lb higher mark, so clearly faces a much tougher assignment this time. The horse he beat at Southwell last time, Sellingallthetime, was beaten further in a 0-75 handicap at the Nottinghamshire track on Tuesday, so the form may not be quite as good as it looked at the time.
Urban Castle has, similarly, done all her racing on the Tapeta surface at Wolverhampton, but she is one of the few in the field with form at this level and dropping back to 1 mile 5 furlongs could be in her favour. Collateral form involving Gabrial’s Star suggests she has the beating of Norab and she’s far from fully exposed after just five career starts. Indeed, she was only beaten 1½ lengths by John’s Reel, who’s now officially rated 97, over 2 miles 119 yards at Wolverhampton, so she could be well handicapped off a mark of 85.
At the time of writing, trainer James Tate is 2-2 at the new Essex venue and jockey Luke Morris is 6-21 (29%) on older horses for the yard on the all-weather, so the statistics are quite positive, too.
Selection: Chelmsford City 4.00 Urban Castle to win