Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Leamington) (Grade Two)
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Seen as a serious Cheltenham trial this two mile five-furlong novice hurdle has been won by the likes of Carruthers, Deputy Dan, Three Musketeers, and best of all The New One over the years though as things stand there is a chance it could cut up badly this year and we may yet be left with a small field though hopefully all those declared early will stand their ground come race day. Eight renewals have seen three victorious favourite (two odds on) and nothing bigger than 8/1 so we are talking punter’s paradise, but that is not to say it is not competitive this year as things stand. Dan Skelton is rarely out of the news and could make a few more headlines if Get On The Yager (7/1 Each Way) wins here on only his third start over hurdles. After winning two point-to-points he was bought at the sales for £38,000 and paid back a small percentage of that when winning a maiden hurdle at Market Rasen by a very easy thirteen lengths over two and a half miles before perhaps going off too fast over two miles and three quarter miles at Newcastle. He was caught and passed by Spirit Of Kayf when sent off odds on that day at the end of November but will have learned a good deal from that. The winner hasn’t run since so the form is hard to assess but races here in receipt of four pounds or more from the majority of his rivals and looks the value call at the prices here.
Irish raider Thomas Hobson scored in 2016 for Willie Mullins and although he is not represented this season, fellow Irish raider Peregrine Run (7/2) is the best horse in the race on official ratings according to the handicapper. Trained in County Kildare by Peter Fahey, a top class amateur jockey with close to 100 wins to his name. As for the horse, he is a seven-year-old gelding who has improved out of all recognition since August last year. Prior to that he had failed to win in five maiden hurdles and a handicap before scoring at Down Royal by sixteen lengths in a maiden hurdle at a well backed 7/2. That was only the start and he has added another three races since with a length win at Cheltenham over this trip in November and runs now off a rating of 141 which suggests he will take a lot of beating. Straight after that race we got a clue to his going needs when his trainer told the waiting media that “Peregrine Run was a good bumper horse, but this season he´s turned a corner. Running him on soft ground probably didn´t help, he likes nice ground and he won´t be running through the winter. You´d like to be dreaming about coming back here in March” suggesting the Cheltenham Festival is still the target, but he won’t want any further rain to be seen at his best, and is yet to win on anything worse than yielding ground with Good the clear preference.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has Ballyhill (11/1) in here and he has been admirably consistent all season with two wins two fourths and a third. He is a decent sort and was last seen finishing fourth to Elgin over two miles but he has won over this trip and may well be better suited by the test of stamina these days and a place is very much a possibility. The stable are in good form again (24% strike rate in the past two weeks), William Twiston-Davies is in 20% in the same period and the horse has a one out of one record over this trip and may not be that far away in the finish.
Meanwhile, Willoughby Court (8/1) is the only course and distance winner in the field for trainer Ben Pauling who has a superb 28% strike rate overall this season and with the six-year-old making all and staying on strongly for a three-quarter length success here last month he belongs in any permutations. He was thirteen lengths behind Get On The Yager the race before but that was his first run in seven months and there may not be as much between the pair of them now even though he re-opposes on four pounds worse terms this afternoon thanks to his penalty for winning a Class Four hurdle.
To round things off for now, Rebecca Curtis is another trainer in among the winners and she runs Geordie Des Champs (3/1) here as the gelding looks for his fourth win of the season. Victories at Chepstow (twice) and Aintree were followed by a second to Theligny at Newbury when he was beaten two and three quarter lengths at the line at odds of 11/8 and good as he is, that form seems to leave him with a bit to find this afternoon in this more exalted company.