Race Time: 2.40pm Meeting: Wetherby Day: Saturday 16th January 2015 Full Race Name: Asian Handicaps at 188bet.co.uk Handicap Hurdle Class Three
Three runnings of this race have seen Sue Smith win it twice, so it makes good sense to start our preview with Vendor (9/2) despite the burden of top weight and eleven stone twelve, or four pounds more than the eight year old has carried successfully before. He is a course winner (last time out when he beat Hartside very easily by nine lengths), and a distance winner at Newbury which are positives, but has been put up eight pounds for his sins and may struggle to run as well today, especially on heavy going which he is yet to win on and seems to have deliberately avoided when possible. The form of his last win was let down by the runner up who was thrashed next time out at Doncaster off the same rating in lower grade which is hardly encouraging, and good as he is we can’t see his trainer landing the hat trick in this race here.
Dan Skelton has gone off the boil a little in recent weeks (one win from just eleven runners as we write), but has a stable full of talent including Master Jake (7/2) who has won both his races so far this season as well as the final two last season (in point to points), so clearly on a bit of a roll. Both hurdles wins were on heavy going over two miles (at Hexham and Lingfield), but he seems sure to stay this extra trip, and may even improve for it (we think he will), making him a serious challenger and one we will be considering (depending on prices) when the overnight declarations are out.
Trainer Micky Hammond is as nice a trainer as you will ever meet and has been in among the winners of late including with Maxie T (7/2) who could hardly have been any more impressive than last time out when beating favourite Alizee De Janeiro by a very easy eighteen lengths at Kelso over two and a quarter miles, and on heavy going. That was his first win over hurdles from six attempts but something must have “clicked” because it was very impressive to the eye, and he looks to be gong the right way, unless that was a one off of course? He has been punished (and we choose the word very carefully) by the handicapper with a ridiculous eleven pound weight rise, but is reunited with Finian O’Toole who takes seven pounds off his back and could possibly be improving fast enough to shrug off his new rating.
When it comes to handicaps, Alan Swinbank is another trainer underrated by the majority of punters, but not by us as we realise he is a master of his art. He sends Divine Port (11/2) here after consecutive wins at Carlisle and Sedgefield, looking a lot happier for the steps up in trip. The form of both his wins isn’t really top class but then again he gets in here off of just 119, just the six pounds higher than last time, and who is to say this is not part of a Swinbank master plan – we will certainly be watching the betting very carefully just in case!
Looking for outsiders now and John Wade will be hoping that Spanish Fleet (16/1) can win more races this season to go with his three Carlisle wins from November 2014. The fact that all his wins have been at one track (and not this one), isn’t encouraging as far as we are concerned, but he has run here twice and did finish second to No Planning who is now rated 137 so the eight year old could be well in here off of 133, we just wonder why he hasn’t been seen since last April and can only see him getting in to the places at best.