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It was a surprise to see the Southwell selection bail me out on Wednesday as Skye Breeze bounced back to form and continued his nice progression on the AW.
Market Rasen wasn't too kind with Laconda not jumping as well as she has previously shown and I can't quite put my finger on how William Cody was so poor, as on all known form he should've been bang there.
Doncaster 2:00 – Nothin To Ask 16/1 (0.5pt EW, Bet365)
I did like the look of Demachine in this race back on a sounder surface, but the odds are a bit short for a competitive race, instead I went with Nothin To Ask who is the rank outsider of the field and I did have it hard to split the pair, but the bigger odds swayed me to favour the Fergal O'Brien runner.
I think having form at this level is a big positive, where you can often get bogged down going for the improving horses, but when a horse is proven at a level they don't need to prove anything other than they are running to form. My selection hasn't been running to form, which is why you get 16/1 for him, but I think he is better on better ground, and though the ground is good to soft and soft in places, it should dry out a bit as they have a dry forecast at Doncaster and the winds should help turn this to good to soft all over, if the meeting goes ahead.
His last win came over a furlong shorter at Doncaster on good ground in a Class 3 contest which looks decent form as the runner-up has won three times over fences since, once over hurdles and has been placed as runner-up over both codes since. There was a faller in that race, who would've made the races interesting as he was going well on chase debut, but he has since won over hurdles twice in Class 2 company, so that also boosts the form.
His runs so far this season have resulted in a 9th/11 and a PU, but I thought he was running okay on seasonal debut at Chepstow in a hot race, but looked desperately in need of the run as when his gas tank emptied he went backwards very quickly. His most recent start I'm more than happy to look past it as it came on heavy ground. His handicap mark is now back on the same as when he last bolted up at Doncaster, and Jack Hogan takes off 3lbs. It is a concern that recent rider Liam Harrison has got on board Kerry Lee, but he has to be worth a few quid ew at the prices.
Leicester 1:05 – Malpas 7/1 (0.5pt EW)
Leicester's ground is going to be very testing, and it's a track which gets bottomless very quickly which is why they've had plenty of cancellations of fixtures in recent years, so it's going to be testing out there so heavy ground horses will have to come to the fore. I'm taking a chance on Malpas who is a 9yo but is still unexposed over fences and I think he might be on the right side of the handicapper off his current mark of 103.
This horse has always shown glimpses of ability over hurdles, most noticeably at the start of his career which saw him fall three times in four races and he was running cracking races in every single one of them, but his best RPR to date was on his hurdling debut on his only effort on heavy ground in his career over 2m 4f at Catterick when he had two 130 rated horses cooked until falling at the last. That race was in 2021 and he has since won 3x over hurdles, and placed on five occasions, often travelling like a serious contender. It's a concern that he hasn't been chasing more often, but I felt like his run at Carlisle on return in December on the back of the wind-op in August was a nice return and left the impression he does have a future over fences. He travelled nicely, jumped very well but you could tell he wasn't fired up to win on return.
They've tried to keep him below 2m 4f for his entire career and has rarely attempted this trip, but his pedigree has stayers in it and the way he was running over this trip on heavy ground a few years ago suggest he does have the stamina to stay the trip. This is a drop in grade to what he has been racing in and this is actually his first time in a Class 5 race. The race looks decent for the grade with some improving horses, but I feel like he has the class edge in this, he'll probably trade short in running and I'm hoping he does have the stamina in reserve to finish off his race, and the recent wind op should help him.
Top weights have a decent record in this race and his odds are more than fair enough.
Leicester 3:50 – Lady Balko 9/2 (1pt)
This looks to be a total minefield as it is a big field handicap on heavy ground for horses towards the bottom of the handicap, but I feel like we've not seen anywhere near the best of Lady Balko from her qualifying runs for this handicap.
This mare has been looked after, is probably the correct term for her three runs to get her the starting handicap rating of 82. She has been gingerly handled and positioned towards the rear for the most part of her races, which is so often the way to get a low rating which they can exploit when they enter handicaps and I thought she ran better than her 33L defeat last time out at Wincanton on heavy ground. She was 100/1 that day, parked in last place, but made eyecatching ground under no pressure from Jack Tudor turning for home, she finished 4th that day and it looked like a horse who could offer something in handicaps when the money was down.
David Pipe has an amazing record with his hurdlers at Leicester, with a 30% SR from 50 runners, racking up 17 wins and further 13 finishing in 2nd or 3rd, which is more than a 50% of finishing in the top three.
Doncaster - 2:00 pm
16/1 @ Bet365
Leicester - 1:05 pm
7/1 @ Bet365
Leicester - 3:50 pm