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Venetia Williams’ handicappers were flying at the Festival and her Just Smudge would be my token selection in this novices’ handicap. A winner at Ludlow and Doncaster, I think you can put a line through his last run at Haydock as bad blunder at the first fence put him on the back foot from the start and he could never really get into properly afterwards.
He went up 15lbs for his latest win but he started from a low point and this is anything but a strong handicap.
Apatura Dik would be my idea of the most likely danger who has run well on both starts this season and McCoy takes over from Daryl Jacob whilst Dream Garden has course winning form and represents the under-rated Chris Bealby yard and he would also come into it.
This looks a wide open handicap hurdle and if you twisted my arm I would go along with The Shoe for the Henderson yard that a double at the final day of the Festival.
I think his first run in this country was a bit of a sighter to be honest with you and believe he bumped into what is probably a very good novice in Bouggler who beat him pointless next time out but he now tackles handicap company and as he hasn’t got close in two starts in Britain so far, I reckon he may have got in lightly here.
Heraldry and South O’The Border would worry me most.
Appleaday makes some appeal.
I felt he looked a really happy, in-form horse when winning at Sandown last time after two solids runs and think he can improve for the step up in trip.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not mad keen on him, just I just liked his attitude last time and is currently in very good heart which counts for a lot but I am taking a chance on his stamina as he is untested beyond 3m3f but he was a staying-on second on that occasion so there are reasons for believing it could actually improve him.
I backed Flintoff non-runner no-bet for the Kim Muir but he runs here instead. I do think he is well handicapped hence why I backed him for the amateurs Gold Cup at the Festival but I really am not sure he is a 4m1f horse judged on his run at Cheltenham in November where 3m4f looked to stretch him after running well for a long way.
However, I may be wrong and would respect his trainer’s decision to run here though as surely she knows the horse and she is one of the best placers of horses. Companero appeals as an ideal sort for this as he is plain slow and novices fare well in the race but I felt the Howard Johnson horses looked to be running a bit short at Cheltenham (they had problems with the snow worse than most) and may be a yard to look at when Aintree comes around given their excellent record there.
Alan King hit the crossbar so many times at the Festival before Oh Crick finally gave him a winner in the 26th race and final race but looking at them all in the paddock, they stood out alongside Paul Nicholls’ horses in terms of skin condition and if his non-Festival horses look the same, I think he will have a very good spring and I fancy his Noticeable to land this race.
A wide-margin winner of two admittedly bad races on his last two starts, the way he bounded clear at Doncaster last time irrespective of the lack of quality in the opposition took the eye and I reckon he is still ahead of the handicapper. Fiendish Flame did very well to win here last time as set off like a six-furlongs sprinter before looking well beaten and then picked up the pieces again when the leader fell in a heap after he committed too far out. If he is ridden more sensibly, he is a big danger.