A competitive handicap hurdle kicks off the card at Sedgefield today, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Conditions could play a large part in the outcome of this race, but it could pay to stick with the proven form of DARK AND DANGEROUS. He is rising in the handicap but still receives weight from a few of his rivals here and may just be able to improve again if the blinkers continue to have the desired effect. Astrum would have a chance on old form, but he has become disappointing, whilst any strong support for Boethius would be very interesting.
1 ASTRUM – Weak in the betting on his last start (5/2 out to 3/1) and ran a very disappointing race, beaten 29 lengths over C&D. Although carrying top weight today, he will like the ground, having won on Good and placed on Soft ground previously. Conditions should also be in his favour here under 7lb claimer Harry Stock. Taking into account his rider’s claim, he is 9lbs below his last winning mark and now that he is back into a Class 5 company, he has a decent chance to return to form. His overall career record of three wins from 37 runs leaves a lot to be desired, though, and he often finds one too good, so it may be worth looking elsewhere.
2 STILO BLUE NATIVE – Lightly raced nine-year-old who has recorded one win from 15 attempts. He has eased in grade after two very poor runs when beaten 22 and 35 lengths respectively. He does not look harshly treated, now only 2lbs higher for a neck victory here in November, and perhaps a step back down in trip to the minimum distance may see him to better effect. He may just want conditions slightly on the softer side today, but that is not enough to make him an attractive proposition here. His overall record is a shade disappointing and he has to give weight away to nearly all his rivals. Brian Hughes has a 20% strike rate at Sedgefield, but more is needed to convince that he is worth backing for Rebecca Menzies’s first runner at Sedgefield.
3 BARABOY – An inconsistent sort, he sprung a 20/1 surprise off a mark of 97 at Ayr just before Christmas last year when finishing very well in heavy ground to win by 1/2 a length. He has been beaten out of sight since though, having beaten no rivals home in his subsequent two starts. He is ground versatile and the handicapper has shown some leniency dropping him 4lbs (98). However, he is hard to recommend with his very inconsistent profile and others are more appealing.
4 DARK AND DANGEROUS – Simon Waugh seems to have found the key to this horse having managed to notch up two victories since returning to racing from a nine month break. The blinkers made a huge impact when they were applied for the first time and he was strongly backed (33/1 into 11/1) and duly dotted up by six lengths on Boxing Day. They have been used ever since and he continues to improve, having shown a great attitude to get back up when headed last time out over C&D. He is up another 4lbs for that victory, but may not be done improving. He is worth strong consideration having beaten two of today’s opponents that day, albeit on better terms.
5 BOETHIUS – Tim Vaughan’s runner was bought for £13,500 following a short spell at Godolphin and it is hard to imagine that there is no improvement to come over obstacles. He has been beaten a very long way on all his starts to date over hurdles, starting no shorter than 20/1 on all four occasions. This is his first time in a handicap and he is technically well-in due to his weight for age claim; but that assumes that he is deserving of a mark of 105. It is difficult to say what he has really achieved on his starts to date, however his trainer is in fine form, with five winners in the last 14 days. He is one to take very seriously should any strong support arrive.
6 FIDDLER’S FLIGHT – A dual C&D winner, he is a relatively consistent sort for this grade, having won and placed off marks in the low to mid-80s. He was beaten by Dark And Dangerous and Strait Run last time out, but is dropped 2lbs for that effort and is much better off at the weights against both this time around. He made up plenty of ground late on that day, but was never in contention; today’s better ground is a small cause for concern. He has won on Heavy and Soft but was pulled up last time he raced on Good ground. Today’s Good to Soft, Good in places ground does not look as though it will suit and the eleven-year-old is opposed on that basis.
7 STRAIT RUN – He has not won over jumps and has not recorded a victory on the flat since 2013. Despite that, his last run was a big improvement on what he has shown to date. He was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Dark And Dangerous and, considering that horse is thriving at present, he can be marked up for that effort. He hung right when strongly driven and had no answer to the comfortable winner. He is 3lbs better off on today’s terms and clearly enjoys this track. However, his best performances have been on softer ground and any drying conditions may seriously threaten his chances of reversing the form. Respected, but not enough to suggest that he has turned a corner on form.