12.00 Conditions – 21 entries
A strong and intriguing entry to start the day and if the main pretenders run we could be in for a treat. Smoke Man has a 6lb penalty to defy but has shown a liking for Horseheath when winning his Maiden here last season. Since then he has been progressive and finished last season with a 2nd to subsequent Stratford HC winner Law of Gold (entered later in Mens Open). He has already won this season at Sheriff Hutton in a time only 2 seconds slower than Hazel Hill in the Mens Open on the same day. It will be interesting to see how the dual Cottenham scorer Fumet d’Oudairies fairs at a much more stamina-demanding course. He is only 5 so gets a handy weight allowance and was impressive when winning over 2m4f in November (beating Voie Dans Voie who has won since) and then the Restricted in December and wasn’t stopping at the end of either race. He has shown lots of pace and if getting up the hill here will surely continue to progress and given weight advantage is our selection. Gunmoney has been part of the furniture at Horseheath meetings and the gallant and consistent 15yo deserves a mention but maybe best watched on his seasonal debut. The Russell family also have stablemate Easythingsarebest entered. This one has to be considered but has been lightly raced since 2017 with only 2 runs since then. He showed glimmers of his former form when 3rd at Sheriff Hutton, leading until understandably getting tired 2 out. Vasco du Mee often runs well without winning but did manage a Hunt Members win last season before a lacklustre run in the 4mile HC at Cheltenham. He has had a run this season and an improvement could be expected. Multimedia ran very well on his seasonal debut at Revesby to just be pipped on the line and is another to follow as he progresses up the pointing ladder.
Selection: Fumet d’Oudairies Alternative: Smoke Man
12.35 Open Maiden 4/5/6yo – 18 entries
This is an attractive race with a number of young horses entered who could be the National Hunt stars of the future. Certainly, now taking on something of an Irish flavour as some of those on show could well be taking their opportunity to shine in preparation for any future sales. Both Any Alibis and Make A Deal would fit into that category. Unraced 4 year olds (with their 21lb allowances) they are bred for the NH game and will surely be passing through the pointing world particularly if they shine today. Close examination in the parade ring will help but, if running, they surely won’t be travelling from Lambourn to make up the numbers. The two Ellis entrants are Bawnmore (a one pace third of 14 in a Larkhill Maiden earlier this month) and Black Jasper (a distant 4th in a Irish 4 year old Maiden back in November 2018). Black Jasper has been off the course for 14 months so our preference would be for Bawnmore. One of interest is Classic Ruler who has already been successful in a small field Point-to-Point Bumper at Garthorpe back in April. Subsequently tried his luck in a NH Bumper at Stratford where he ran an encouraging race coming 4th of 13 but well adrift of the winner. That was in May of last year so may also require the run to show his true ability. Earlier this season your scribe thought that Happy Larry, after his showing in a Larkhill Maiden early in December when running on well into third place, was likely to take the young horse maiden at Cottenham at the end of the year – he fell at the first! If recreating his first race performance between the flags he should be in contention and might just be value for an each-way punt. Likely favourite however will be Raffle Ticket who readily won a P to P Bumper at Barbury just over a month ago. From the powerful Rowley yard this is another who should be in the mix. In truth one could make a case for many more – Andrew Pennock’s latest recruit Urban Waltz has been strutting his stuff over hurdles in Ireland and whilst not setting the world on fire will surely be well prepared for his new role in life. So who to choose – although likely favourite Raffle Ticket will take all the beating so gets the vote but more fun may well be had with a modest investment in Happy Larry.
Selection: Raffle Ticket Alternative: Happy Larry
1.10 Conditions (Novice Riders) – 12 entries
An interesting mix of runners for this novice riders contest. Summer Sounds is usually a good yardstick in these events but has failed to complete in both outings this season. He pulled up at Barbury Castle in mid December. He hails from Francesca Nimmo’s yard and is a previous course winner so can’t be discounted especially if ridden by the capable novice Luke Scott. Ballycahane finished 4th, beaten 7 ½L by Just Cause at Ampton last month in the veteran’s race so could be in the shake up with a repeat performance. Fox Valley won a 3 runner restricted at the first Cottenham meeting when beating Crazy Penguin by 40L before finishing 2nd at Ampton when going down by ½L to Dream Doc in the intermediate. Minella Friend has been placed in both starts this season. He was 3rd at Ampton beaten 4 ½L by Just Cause but 3L ahead of Ballycahane. He was 4th and last at Thorpe Lodge last weekend beaten 44L behind Early Retirement so may not turn out here. Amigo finished 4th at Ampton but was disqualified for taking the wrong course around a dolled off fence. Now trained by James Owen who enjoyed a double last weekend he could be in the mix if this race cut up. Back Bar represents Alan Hill’s yard. He won three races last season including one under today’s rider Henrietta Cranfield when scoring at High Easter by 6L from Mahler’s Spirit with Amigo 5L back in 3rd. Groundunderrepair could make his pointing debut today. He was a two-time scorer under rules when trained by Warren Greatrex, his last win coming at Hereford in April 2018 when he beat Game On by 6L in a 3 mile hurdle. The Alan Hill yard is finding form now so we will select Back Bar to give Henrietta Cranfield her second winner. Summer Sounds is our alternative selection.
Selection: Back Bar Alternative: Summer Sounds
1.45 Ladies Open – 10 entries
This race appears to be at the mercy of Gina Andrews who has been named as the jockey for four of the entries. One assumes that husband Tom will saddle either Kalabaloo or Latenightpass to give Gina every opportunity of another Horseheath career win. Kalabaloo has won 6 from 9 points and a Cheltenham hunter ‘chase and scored at Alnwick, three weeks ago. He finished 3rd here at Horseheath in a Restricted two years ago. Latenightpass also won a hunter ‘chase at Cheltenham, at the same meeting as Kalabaloo and has finished 4th in his first run this season before picking-up a walkover, two weeks ago. Full Irish will come on for his recent Ampton run behind Tullys Touch but seems unlikely to reverse position, if that winner lines up here. Mercers Court stays forever, which is not a bad trait around Horseheath, and was 2nd but a very long way behind Ravished at Cottenham in his first run for Caroline Fryer. Top Smart unseated when in a challenging position at Higham last weekend and is 2/2 in Ladies Opens at Horseheath.
Selection: Tom Ellis selected runner Alternative: Tullys Touch
2.20 Mens Open – 21 entries
A distinguished entry list for this year’s renewal of the men’s open, a reminder to years past. Last season’s Cheltenham Foxhunter winner Hazel Hill features amongst the entries at Horseheath as well as in the two hunter chases scheduled on Saturday at Wetherby and Musselburgh. A previous winner around this course, in which Thetalkinghorse was well behind, Hazel Hill started the season with a 15 length victory at Sheriff Hutton, three weeks ago. Should he not take up this option the Philip Rowley stable also have Salvatore entered. Victory in a conditions race on his seasonal debut at Larkhill in December was followed with a close 3rd to Shantou Flyer in a men’s open at the same venue. Art Mauresque showed his class to win the men’s open at Cottenham over the Christmas period, quickening away from Bletchley Castle after jumping the last. Inchcolm was a prolific winner under rules and ran well on his first run for new connections at Barbury where he finished a close third in the mixed open behind The Dellercheckout. Tullys Touch started the season with a victory in a slow run mixed open at Ampton, showing a good turn of foot up the final hill to defeat Chosen Rose and Full Irish. Law Of Gold, one of the highest rated six-year-olds of last season went from strength to strength, culminating with victory in the “John Corbet” at Stratford in which he stayed on strongly to defeat Winged Leader. This fine looking horse may have a fitness disadvantage for this contest, but is expected to carry on improving throughout the season.
Selection: Hazel Hill Alternative: Art Mauresque
2.55 Restricted – 18 entries
A fantastic and welcome 18 entries for what should be a very competitive race. Aclassagold ran 6L 2nd to Bask in the Glory on soft ground at Revesby Park in Jan following a very undistinguished hurdling career and might find this race too strong. 7yr Destination Dylan from the Stearn yard last ran to win an Irish Maiden in Dec 2018, highly rated and may make the frame. Diplomatica fell at the 10th in the Jan Wadebridge Restricted and was placed 3 times last season – one to watch. 7yr. Fiddler of Dooney from the Owen yard held on well to beat the Rowley runner Quinto Do Mar in the Dec Cottenham Open Maiden but could find this track a little more testing. Having his 4th run this season is Frank and Honest an all out Maiden win at Cottenham in Nov followed by a one pace 3rd to Neetside in the Dec Wadebridge Restricted and then falling at Cottenham so another to possibly finding this track too testing. Getting Closer from the Hill yard came good at the end of the season in Ireland with a Maiden win and a Restricted 3rd in May, may need the run here but one to note for a place. 6yr Oscars Fame from the Ellis/Andrews yard won the Dec. short Maiden at Cottenham by 6L – can he handle 3m on a testing track? Phoenix Park took the soft ground Open Maiden at Wadebridge in Dec with a 2nd at Cottenham in Nov behind Frank and Honest but pu at the last in the Dec Cottenham Restricted – another to find this track too testing? Maybe needing a run, Rebel Dawn Rising from the Kemp yard comfortably won the Open Maiden at Brafield in March on good to soft so a frame finish is probable.
Selection: Fiddler of Dooney Alternative: Rebel Dawn Rising
3.30 Open Maiden 7yo and up – 11 entries
In the first Maiden race for young horses these are hoping for a win and then to progress upwards to race under rules. In this race it is the other way around in that these horses have run under rules, didn’t quite make it and have come down to the pointing field. One has to say that there are few with much form and without being unkind pretty ordinary, maybe we’ll have to eat our words later. Best to Come is a first season pointer and was favourite at Barbury Castle in December, led for part of the race before falling at the tenth. Last time out was well behind when refused at the last fence. Catwalk Frank has been placed five times in the last two years, 3rd last time at Bangor on Dee two weeks ago, unfortunately appears to be one paced but this course could suit. Classical Daytime also ran in this race and finished in 6th position. Giveaway is from the Gerald Bailey yard; Gerald has had much success at this venue over the years but not certain that this one is good enough to continue his fortunes. On Parole has had three outings already this season and been 2nd on two occasions. First time out was at Larkhill in December when was beaten by Raised with Praise by ¾ of a length, surely will lose the Maiden tag soon. Lough Dorg Sunrise is from the Andrew Pennock yard and has been 4th in both races, did start as an even favourite in the second so there must have been some expectation. Dickie Collinson has come back from retirement to ride for Andrew again, hopefully looking again to success. Of the others there is little to show much encouragement but who knows on the day.
Selection: On Parole Alternative: Lough Dorg Sunrise
Race 1: Fumet d’Oudairies / Smoke Man
Race 2: Raffle Ticket / Happy Larry
Race 3: Back Bar / Summer Sounds
Race 4: Tom Ellis selected runner / Tullys Touch
Race 5: Hazel Hill / Art Mauresque
Race 6: Fiddler of Dooney / Rebel Dawn Rising
Race 7: On Parole / Lough Dorg Sunrise