The booking of AP McCoy for Mister Philson (1.50), blinkered for the first time, would suggest connections mean business in the handicap chase at Hexham for Irish trainer Stuart Crawford who has already had a winner in Britain this week courtesy of Strongpoint at Musselburgh on Monday. A winning point-to-pointer the gelding won a chase at today’s track from a 1lb lower mark earlier in the year and his recent run at Haydock should have blown the cobwebs away.
Honest John looks very well handicapped on his hurdle form but he gave little encouragement that a return to form was imminent when unseating at Market Rasen last time and a bigger danger might come from The Thirsty Bricky who ran very well at Wetherby last time and this slightly stiffer test of stamina will suit.
McCoy, primarily, is at Hexham to ride Regal Encore (12.50) in the opener and the handicapper has given him a mark of 130 before his trip to the North East. The horse runs in the colours of JP McManus and might need to be raised a few pounds by the handicapper ahead of a possible tilt at races such as the valuable Newbury Handicap Hurdle run in February. Runner up in the Festival Bumper back in March he is surely going to be much better than a 130-rated animal and he is a fascinating horse for the future.
No guaranteed front-runner in the extended two-mile chase which tempers confidence in Pamak D’Airy (2.20) but he has run very well on both starts so far this season and this stiffer test will suit more than at Sedgefield last time. Young conditional Tony Kelly has ridden the horse on his last two starts, is good value for 5lbs and can make it third time lucky.
At Leicester Balbriggan did us a favour over today’s C&D ten days ago but I think this is a tougher test and just favour Little Chip and The Musical Guy (2.10) with marginal preference for the latter in a cracking little race. The selection remains a maiden after 15 career starts but todays conditions look ideal and he can, belatedly, get his head in front.
If Bertie’s Desire (2.40) jumps better than he did at Huntingdon last time he must have a leading chance but the waters are muddied by the fact that The Last Night runs in the same colours trained by Emma Lavelle who can certainly get them ready following a lay-off. The Last Night is a brother of Tocco Ferro and if the market spoke in his favour, returning from a 421-day break, I suggest we follow the money.
Foxclub has been raised 8lbs despite coming down two out when looking to hold every chance at Wincanton and lurking near the foot of the weights is the juvenile Garde Ville (3.10) bought by connections for 42,000 Guineas in July after showing some promise at Auteuil in his native France earlier in the year.
Lady Rosamunde is a fascinating runner in the two-mile handicap at Kempton for Marcus Tregoning stepping up to the trip for the first time; she ran very well on this surface on her racecourse debut and must go close if fully tuned up after a 152-day break. Almost half of the nine-runner field are last time out winners but I hope Clerk’s Choice (6.10) can turn back the clock back with his first trainer William Jarvis. The selection ran a cracker back on the level here over a mile-and-a-half three weeks ago and, granted a decent pace, he can gain his first win on the flat since June 2009.