I’m at Ludlow tomorrow, undoubtedly one of my favourite racecourses (and towns) for a pleasant and relatively low level interlude between Cheltenham and Aintree. The going is good. It’s a typically tricky card so I’m approaching it with some trepidation!
Here’s a much better preview than I can possibly aspire to from the incomparable and superb Racing Post writer, David Ashforth.
2.30 Novices’ Hurdle 2m
The current market says it’s between three – Beallandendall (7/4), Ascotdeux Nellerie (9/4) and Magic Music Man (on the drift at 7/2) and the Betfair market reinforces that. Beallandendall’s last three outings have been at Ludlow (pulled up on 12 January on heavy ground at 150/1; 3rd on 3 February on soft at 100/1; won on 3 March on soft at 12/1). He is the definition of progressive but I have a feeling that this is a step too far off joint top weight (11st 9lbs). I’m therefore with Ascotdeux Nellerie***, a dual course and distance winner on only his fourth outing and bringing into this race form of 117.
3.05 Handicap Chase 2m
On the face of it, an eight runner handicap chase shouldn’t be too difficult but six of these are in with a real shout. Ashcott Boy is the favourite and obvious choice based on his form and rating (120/Timeform 130). However I think that there’s value in the current 9/2 for Oficial Ben** (yes, that is the correct spelling), a JP/Jonjo O’Neill horse and point winner having his third “official” chase (pulled up on heavy over three miles at Market Rasen 3 December and a much more promising second over two miles on soft at Catterick on 28 December).
3.40 Ludlow Food Centre Mares’ Handicap Hurdle 2m
I’ll be at the excellent Ludlow Food Centre on Friday morning, stocking up for the Easter weekend. As for this race, mares’ handicap hurdles are races that I would generally avoid unless there’s an obvious choice. Six runners and four serious candidates. Midtech Valentine was third of ten at Uttoxeter in a Class 3 but the official rating of 98 doesn’t compare well with Hope’s Wishes** (off an official 120/Timeform 126+) whose jockey claims 5lbs. Timeform have Midtech Valentine on 137 (clear by 11) but I’m happy to stick with the favourite at a current 9/4.
4.15 Handicap Chase 2m
This is the £20,000 feature race and has comfortably the best field. Parsnip Pete is a seasoned campaigner who started his career with a bumper win at Ludlow in 2011. His finest moment was winning the Red Rum Chase at Aintree in 2014 but his last win was also at Aintree in October 2014 and recent form is, frankly, lamentable. Nonetheless he’s the Timeform selection on 157. My strong selection and nap is the current favourite Presenting Arms**** at a current and very appealing 100/30. If you ignore his run in the Ladbroke the form is an outstanding 111711. This is his second chase, having seen off 1/3 favourite Coologue at Doncaster on 4 March, and this looks like a perfect opportunity to consolidate that form. I’m sure that he’ll be much shorter by the off.
4.50 Hunters’ Chase 3m
I used to avoid hunter chases like the plague. Amateur riders, unknown (to me) trainers and random results. However the character of these races has changed in the last few years and it’s often possible to pick out a leading candidate. That said I’m not sure that I’ll do so this time! On The Bridge** might well take to this on his hunter chase debut. Primarily a hurdler, his chase form (albeit going back a while) was good (211PU445) including a 3m chase win at Ludlow and he’s never fallen in his 41 race career.
5.20 Mares Novices’ Hurdle 2m 5f
At last a short priced favourite and I see no good reason to oppose next best Mo Chailin*** (Evens and the rest drifting). OK, the trainer is Donald McCain who has had a shocking season, not least as a result of the removal of so many horses from his yard, and the horse was fourth of seven here in a bumper on 4 January, but her clear win at Catterick earlier this month was very encouraging.
5.50 Bumper 2m
Thank God this is the last race and not in the placepot! Eight of the fourteen are having their first visit to a racecourse. The shortlist includes three. Blu Cavalier was first of fourteen in his second outing at Taunton last November on good ground. The second in that race, Boubry, went on to win at Newcastle but was sixth of fourteen in his last outing at Newbury earlier this month (albeit a Class 2). Ridgeway Flyer is Timeform top-rated and runs for Harry Fry with Noel Fehily on board. He was second of fourteen off 11st 4lbs and beaten by an Alan King 4-y-o horse off 10st 5lbs at Kempton last month, with a Nicky Henderson 7/2f in fourth so that’s pretty decent form. Speaking of Nicky Henderson, he has an interesting debutant (Alhaarth/Sincere) in the shape of New Member, a 5-y-o bought for €36,000 as a three year old. All three are currently on the drift and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballyhill (with Sam on board) is currently shortening from 12/1 to 8/1. What to do? Possibly nothing. On balance I’ll go with Ridgeway Flyer* on the basis of experience and ostensibly decent form.