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There’s not much jumping action to get involved in right now and that’s probably not a bad thing considering I’ve just had a look at my Cheltenham ante-post positions and saw an alarming number of horses who want decent ground just as the weather has decided to change.
The course put on 45mm last week, which you can hardly blame them for given the predicted conditions and dry winter, but the forecast has changed and there now seems to be plenty of the wet stuff around over the next few days.
Still, there’s no point in worrying yet as we’re still a little too far out to be sure, but I can see myself changing my mind over several races next week – not to mention kissing goodbye to what would have been some nice positions.
There may well be a ground change at Wincanton too, as the course put on two cycles of 12mm earlier this week and is now due a deluge.
That might not be an issue for Stormy Flight, who is forecast to be a warm favourite for the GBIM Women Investors Network Handicap Chase (1.30), as he has looked well suited to the step up in trip since returning from a wind op and won very easily just over two weeks ago at Taunton.
He has comparable form on good and soft ground but the problem is a 9lb rise for that six-length win, which puts him back up to the sort of mark off which he struggled over hurdles.
He could well turn into a better chaser, but the Anthony Honeyball-trained Windance has gone up only 3lb for a 16-length win at Fontwell last month and could turn out better treated for a trainer who has his stable in fine nick.
In fairness to the handicapper, the Fontwell contest was a four-runner race in which the short-priced favourite was never travelling and pulled up, and there is far more substance to Stormy Flight’s success, but Windance has finished 131 on his three runs over 3m2f and is just preferred at the likely odds.
Valsheda, who shaped well for a long way at Kempton last time on his return from a wind op, could prove a threat as well, although the softer the ground becomes, the less you would like his chances.
In the Newt In Somerset Handicap Hurdle (4.25) Noble Savage is 3lb well in following his run at the track eight days ago and connections will be hoping for better luck as he was demoted to second after winning by a nose, having caused interference at the last.
That would have been his first win under rules in 14 outings, so you wouldn’t necessarily want to rely on him repeating the form, although he remains 7lb lower than he was at the start of last season and can clearly be competitive if in the right mood.
Preferred, though, is Electric Annie, who hasn’t run badly in two outings under amateur George Hiscock. The jockey has four winners from just 13 rides this season and Electric Annie won back-to-back races on this course for Jack Barber last season (2m4f and 2m5½f).
Having not yet quite found her form for Robert Walford, she has now dropped to a mark 6lb lower than her last success. She only weakened approaching the final flight here last month and if she can last just a little bit longer ought to be competitive in a race that won’t take much winning.
The unknown quantity is Dr Hegarty, who has run just three times for Jonjo O’Neill. He finished well beaten at odds of 66-1, 33-1 and, last time, 200-1 in the race won by Supreme hope Chasing Fire. He’s now handicapped and up in trip, so improvement could be on the cards.
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