Ten runners go to post for this intriguing ten runner handicap at Taunton on Tuesday, see our betting tips and full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: Despite two poor efforts this season, the return to good ground is likely to help TOMMY SILVER who is yet to show his true form. Looking like a juvenile to follow last season with some very good efforts, it’s far too early to give up on him yet for Paul Nicholls and Stan Sheppard claims a useful 5lb, baring in mind the rider has had four wins from his last nine rides. This is arguably much easier than his two previous efforts this season and if firing after a small break he could be hard to beat off a mark of 134. He can see off Mr Kit Cat, who if at his best on seasonal reappearance is likely to be danger for Evan Williams.
1 SIZING GRANITE – Grade 1 winning novice chaser back in April 2015 at Aintree, beating God’s Own and Traffic Fluide but has been less than consistent since then. Finishing second in the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse in March 2016, he returned this season with Colin Tizzard, pulling up in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November and now goes back over hurdles for the first time in three years. Only four hurdling runs to go off which makes him very tricky to judge, though a mark of 137 for this code is likely to be generous given the fact he is rated 154 over the larger obstacles. Likely to be in the shakeup if back to his best but there are question marks to answer for him.
2 BERTIMONT – Rated 151 at his peak and clearly a smart hurdler at his best but he’s been taking a long time to find his form this season, with three poor runs before mustering up a second place at Taunton on his latest start, in a lower class race than this (2m, Soft). Now 3lb below his last winning mark so clearly well handicapped and has shown signs he’s coming back to the boil, which makes him very interesting for the in form Dan Skelton team with Harry taking the ride. Has to be resepcted as an effort anywhere near close to his best would have him bang there today.
3 TOMMY SILVER – Running well in juvenile events including a win at Musselburgh (1m 7f, Soft) but hasn’t been at his best since returning this season, running two poor races in arguably much better races than today’s. Looking like a juvenile to follow last season with some very good efforts, it’s far too early to give up on him yet for Paul Nicholls and Stan Sheppard claims a useful 5lb, baring in mind the rider has had four wins from his last nine rides. The return to better ground is a likely big plus and if back to his best off a mark of 134 after a short break, he looks likely to be tough to beat today for Nicholls.
4 TOP TUG – Smart on the flat for Alan King and has transferred that ability over to timber, winning on debut at Kempton in November (2m, Good). He’s subsequently posted two good efforts, finishing second at Catterick in January behind a well supported rival (1m 7f, Good) and makes his handicap debut today. A mark of 130 could well underestimate how much potential he has left in him for the in form yard with Wayne Hutchinson taking the ride. The foretasted good ground only further plays to his strengths and it’d be a huge surprise to not see him challenging in this today. Likely to run well and has to be respected as such.
5 WORK IN PROGRESS – Front runner who won two novice hurdles at the two mile four furlong trip last season, but has been well beaten this season over fences and timber. His latest last at Huntingdon twelve days ago represented a new low for this season and it’s hard to fancy him in this current vein of form for Dan Skelton. Drops another 3lb in the handicap as a consequence but others make far more appeal, and he is likely best watched today.
6 WORKBENCH – Nine year old for Dan Skelton who won over fences back in September at Fontwell (2m 1f, Good) and wasn’t necessarily disgraced when raised 4lb to finish a close fourth at Fakenham when markedly raised in trip (3m, Good. He was soundly outclassed in the Sodexo Gold Cup at the same distance in October and reverts to hurdling, with his mark over timber 10lb lower. He’s 5lb higher than for when second at Fontwell in September when last seen over these obstacles (2m 3f, Good), and faces some rivals who are likely to have much more improvement in them. Bridget Andrews takes off 3lb but hard to give him any more than place claims today.
7 MR KIT CAT Front runner who was improving nicely when last seen in the summer, winning twice at both Segefield and most recently Worcester in June (2m, Good). 195 day lay off to contend with the hood left off and this looks likely to be a tough ask on reappearance, as he’s also likely to be in taken on for the lead by Work In Progress. If at his best on return he’s impossible to discount for Adam Wedge and Evan Williams and could have place claims, but others do have far more going for them and he’s entitled to need this.
8 WHIPCORD – Win pointer back in October 2015 but has only posted one good effort to date over hurdles for Johnny Farrelly, with that being at Exeter in April 2016 (2m, Good). Starts off in handicaps on a mark of 119 which isn’t excessive but judging by his previous runs he’s going to need further to show his best, and others make far more appeal on balance. Brendan Powell takes the ride but this is a very tough task on handicap debut, and is dismissed on this occasion.
9 BOBBLE EMERALD – Having a good spell in handicaps this season, wining twice at both Ludlow (2m, Good to Firm) and Lingfield (2m, Good) in a month’s period. Despite a further 5lb rise for the latter of those victories he wasn’t disgraced to finish third at Cheltenham in December (2m, Good), and perhaps the softer ground caught him out when failing to land a blow at Hereford last month (2m, Soft). Clearly will need more off a mark of 119 and faces tougher opposition today up in class, but could be an each way contender for Martin Keighley if resuming his improvement.
10 STAR FOOT – Novice hurdle win at Market Rasen back in March by a wide margin (2m, Soft) but hasn’t impressed in handicaps thus far, poor on his last two runs at both Southwell (1m 7f, Good) and Uttoxeter (2m 3f, Soft). His latest run can perhaps be looked over as he may well have needed it and the softer ground may not have been ideal but he still needs much, much more against tougher opposition today. Others are readily preferred today.