Race Time: 3.10pm Meeting: Kempton Day: Sunday 27th December 2015 Full Race Name: William Hill Exclusive Mobile Offers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle Class two
There are some seriously good mares around this season and more decent races for them to compete in as well making this a really interesting contest with some high quality entries. Harry Fry, who we mention a lot, is becoming an absolute master at placing his horses year on year, and if he thinks Desert Queen (6/4) can carry off a handicap rating of 142 then rest assured, she has the requisite ability. Her five starts to date have seen her pulled up twice while winning the other three, with her victories on good to soft or better and her disasters on softer ground and although there isn’t enough evidence to use that as anything too solid, we will be watching the sky with interest between now and race time for signs of any more of the wet stuff. This will be her first attempt at three miles but she has stayed on strongly over two and three quarter miles so we don’t really see any issue on that score, and if she gets her ground she ought to prove difficult to beat and could in fact be a bit better than your average handicapper.
Trainer Nicky Henderson won this race in 2009 with Strawberry and has an interesting contender for 2015 with Broxbourne (5/1) returning to this trip after finding them a bit too quick over shorter at Cheltenham last time out, though to be fair she was badly hampered and that run can be ignored. The race before had seen her try three miles for the first time and also saw her first victory of the season at Aintree and although she was put up twelve pounds for that victory she ought to remain competitive and may give then likely favourite the most to do on the day.
Looking for interesting alternatives to the “big two”, and Henry Daly has always had a big reputation as a trainer of staying sorts (though usually over fences), making Tara Mist (5/1) of some interest if nothing else. A daughter of the legendary Kayf Tara she has finished third to Lily Waugh at Wincanton over two and three quarter miles and then fourth to Bella back at two miles at Ludlow but could yet be a revelation stepped up to three miles today and is an interesting each way alternative to the probable favourites – what a shame there are only the seven runners so we only get paid out on first and second.
Minnie Milan (14/1) won three in a row earlier this year at Uttoxeter (twice) and Huntingdon over this sort of trip but saw her handicap mark put up by a total of twenty-five pounds which is a testament to the skills of trainer Neil King – but had to come to an end sometime. Once her rating had peaked she has since finished fourth twice, once at Market Rasen (which saw her put up another five pounds), and most recently here at Kempton (after which she went down three pounds), but we do note her best form does seem to be on quicker ground than she seems likely to get on Sunday afternoon.
To end with, Paul Nicholls must be getting almost as frustrated as we are with Tagrita (7/1) who won three of her first four races under rules and has since sunk without a trace. If we let her off with a poor run at Aintree at the end of a long season, then we need to look at her runs this season which have been when eighth of eleven to Polly Peachum and then sixth of nine to Tullyesker Hill both of which were, in our view, below par efforts. Put away for over a year since she has clearly had her issues, but if she is over them (perhaps a breathing operation, who knows?), then she is another who could possibly shake up the principles.