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Malpas was a non-stayer at Leicester after travelling nicely as he usually does. Lady Balko was heavily gambled into a shorter price, went through the race nicely but might need further as he stayed on once beaten and Nothin To Ask didn't jump one fence on a good stride.
Catterick 2:30 – Bushypark 5/1 (1pt, Bet365)
I've been eyeing up Bushypark for this race for over a month now, as I thought they were getting him primed and dropping his handicap mark for this specific race as he won it 12 months ago, so it was frustrating that they won over hurdles over the Christmas period, but there's positives to take away from that win despite not being on him that day.
He won this race 12 months ago off a rating of 119, which is what he'll be running off today as Joe Williamson takes off 5lbs from his mark of 124. He is under a much bigger weight this year, but that's because the level of opposition is lower and he is the class horse in the race. He was deemed to be very ‘out of form' since that win in this race, but with this yard, it's more of an attempt to get his handicap marks down so he can capitalise on races, and I liken Phil Kirby to Christian Williams in a way that his SR isn't high, but they really do like to land a gamble, but obviously C Williams lands very big pots when they do go for the gambles.
Bushypark won over hurdles at Haydock in a Class 3 on heavy ground, and he ran a very nice race, and that would've put him spot on for his run at attempting to retain his North Yorkshire National crown. There are obviously some well-handicapped horses towards the bottom of the weights, but with my selection you know he'll handle the ground and you know he stays the trip as he won this race eased down last year, and I'm sure they'll be trying to make all on him again this year.
Track And Trace will be popular as his form behind Angler's Crag has been boosted massively earlier this week, so I expect him to go off as fav.
Catterick 3:05 – Son Of The Somme 12/1 (0.5pt EW, WilliamHill 4pl)
All the hype for this race will be around the horses who are deemed well-handicapped, especially the Irish raider and Post Chaise who reverts back to hurdles after a few good runs over fences.
However, I've opted for the top weight, Son Of The Somme who gets help of 7lb claimer, William Maggs, doing the steering. This horse hasn't really been running over this type of trip for the most of his career but when he ran over 3m at Ayr in a Class 3 (0-140) I thought he ran very well and looked to stay the trip out nicely, so is worth a shot over slightly further on this drop in class. I'm more than happy to ignore the Cheltenham run, as that was over shorter, and at this moment in his career I think he needs further than that trip.
His runs over fences last season were decent, he beat One Fine Man who then went on to win on his next two starts. The third in that race has improved 11lbs in the handicap, and the 6th has won 3x and been runner-up twice, yet Son Of The Somme was the one who stayed on strongest on soft ground at Sedgefield over 2m 5f, which makes me believe he's been wanting these longer trips for a while.
The form of the yard has been good over the last couple of days, Brian Ellison had a couple of winners at Market Rasen, including a top weight winner with William Maggs doing the steering, so it's not a huge surprise to see him on board this horse today who is taking this drop in class.
Southwell 1:30 – Open Choice 14/1 (0.5pt EW, WilliamHill 4pl)
I really don't think this is a particularly strong race and I was keen to go with Eligible as he is very good at this track and has been in good form over the last season, but I think off top weight I think he might be susceptible to an improver and I thought Open Choice was interesting off a relatively low handicap mark and back down to a mile.
This lad was bought for 100,000 Euros at the Breeze Ups last May, and he showed glimpses of that promise when finishing 3rd to two decent horses, the runner-up of that race is now 100+ rated and the winner is 84 rated, prior to his breeze ups he was 4th on debut over a mile and he lost many lengths at the start, made good ground and on the back of that you'd think a step up in trip would suit, but I think his run at Newcastle on return of 133 days behind Star Shield in a Class 4 contest showed that a mile is what he wants. The form of that Newcastle race looks strong for the grade and the time after over 10f he was prominent behind what appeared to be a strong pace, came under pressure but stuck to the task and only weakened in the final couple of furlongs, showing he doesn't quite have the stamina for that far, but over shorter he'd be staying on nicely.
His mark of 68 looks to be a good mark to my eyes and this unexposed horse trained by Ed Bethell can land this race, and you'd like to think there's more to come from him as his pedigree suggests he should be a decent horse on the AW with his American pedigree.
Southwell 3:15 – King Viktor 15/8 (1pt, WilliamHill)
Show No Fear has to be respected given the manner of his recent win and under a 5lb penalty, but I thought King Viktor made a very pleasing return to action over today's C&D in December.
He was well-backed last time out after a 500+ day absence, but it was a bit strange to see that money come in for him given Brian Ellison's main jockey was on the other horse in the race, and the other stable horse did finish 2nd. I didn't think King Viktor was given a hard time of things, and that's hardly a surprise given his huge layoff before the race. The jockey didn't use the whip once, gave him a hands and heels ride and didn't look too hard on him, yet the horse was running on nicely under the small amount of pressure he was under and on that basis he has to be going very close today off a 1lb lower mark.
On collateral form with Eagle's Realm who won that Southwell race, King Viktor was 2lbs lower and finished 1.75L behind him, without being pushed to the maximum. Show No Fear was 17lbs lower than Eagle's Realm when they met and was 1.25L behind him, yet today the two horses I've mentioned, the latter is 4lbs lower than my selection, so I do struggle to see how he comes out on top, despite him looking very good last time out.
Catterick - 2:30 pm
5/1 @ Bet365
Catterick - 3:05 pm
12/1 @ William Hill
Southwell - 1:30 pm
14/1 @ William Hill
Southwell - 3:15 pm