There is rain forecast overnight for today’s card at Taunton as jumps racing returns in Britain following an enforced two-day break as a result of the recent cold snap.
The feature Grade 2 Peterborough Chase, which has been re-routed from Huntingdon on Sunday, is not as competitive as it was at the weekend and only five will go to post. It is hard to see past the recent Ascot winner Top Notch (2.45) who ran a career best over fences last time and is a top-class performer – currently 8/1 at BetVictor for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham in March.
This race has always been the plan for last year’s winner Josses Hill – stablemate of the selection – but he finished 59lengths behind Top Notch on his reappearance and he only has a 3lbs pull at the weights.
At the weights, Ptit Zig is a big danger and the Paul Nicholls-trained 8-year-old was a beaten favourite in this corresponding race two years ago when he took a crashing fall two out. The gelding has plied his trade exclusively over timber since falling at Kempton in January 2016 and his supporters will have to believe he is over those fencing errors that have blighted his last two runs over fences.
The meeting begins with a good novice hurdle over the minimum trip with a number of the major yards involved. Friday Night Live and Grapevine are fascinating recruits from the flat and a market move would be significant but I am going to give Alan King’s Desiremoi D’Authie (12.00) another chance in the hope that he will learn to drop his head and settle in his races.
The selection has been well backed in both starts in Britain and it is interesting that he settle beautifully when scoring on his sole start in his native France in a Bumper at Fougeres albeit over 12f.
I hope it is a good day for King as his Canelo (12.30) is taken to edge out Dan McGrue in an informative 3m Novice Hurdle. The selection was beaten by a Nicholls’ inmate – Captain Cattisock – at Wincanton over 2m5f last time with the third a mile back and he is taken to go one better this afternoon. Dam McGrue looks sure to appreciate the step up to 3m having won all three points for Jack Barber last season.
Silent Steps (1.05) makes her chase debut for Paul Nicholls and she too (as has Canelo) has finished runner up in her last three starts. One of those runs was against the subsequent Grade 2 winner Beer Goggles and this winning point-to-pointer has always suggested she would make a better chaser than hurdler.
Our Merlin (1.35) did us a favour at Fontwell on Monday and trainer Richard Walford said in the immediate aftermath of the race that his progressive hurdler would not take his chance at Taunton today. Connections have, it would appear, had a rethink and the selection takes his chance under 14lb worth of penalties. He looked well ahead of the handicapper on Monday, however, and he will certainly be rated higher than his current mark when the handicapper has had his say.
Floresco is going to go in at a big price one of these days and do note a market move but Wolves are flying in the Championship and I thought Molineaux (2.10) – yes I know it is spelt differently – would appreciate stepping back up in trip at Ascot last time and gets the vote for Colin Tizzard.
At the time of writing, Warwick had to pass a 4pm inspection on Wednesday and it might be more sensible to look at Newcastle who are making more optimistic noises although they inspect at 8am raceday.
Lady Buttons (12.40) is also engaged at Warwick and she gets the vote wherever she turns up such was the authority of her chase debut success at Bangor.