A terrific Cheltenham was topped off by five winners from seven selections on Saturday. These are unprecedented times however, but, despite much of northern Europe being in lockdown, racing is due to continue with three scheduled meetings for Monday. Kelso will race behind closed doors but, at the time of writing, spectators will be allowed to attend at Southwell and Hereford. Sad to say but it can only be a matter of time before a jockey, trainer or lad leading a horse up will be diagnosed with the virus and when that happens you would imagine that racing will go the same way as other sports.
In the Southwell opener Solent Steps is likely to be popular under a 7lbs penalty having scored over C&D eight days ago, but the mare has never been the most consistent of animals and she is overlooked. A market move for Dee Star would be worth noting returning from a long break and preference is for Virnon (2.00) who finished runner up over C&D here earlier in the month and has won from a higher mark here in the past. Katie O’Farrell keeps the ride.
The form of Little Light’s (2.30) third at Huntingdon last time has been franked by the subsequent runs of the first two and Lucy Wadham fits her six-year-old with first time blinkers this afternoon. The mare is 1lb lower in the weights today and Bryony Frost takes over in the saddle from the recently retired Leighton Aspell.
Alan King was out of luck at Cheltenham last week, but he has a couple of good chances this afternoon including Sheshoon Sunny (3.30) who finished runner up at Market Rasen when last seen back in January. The selection won a Bumper at Wetherby on soft ground 12 months ago and connections look to have found a good opportunity in receipt of 6lbs from Doncaster winner Excelerator Express.
In the opener at Hereford I hope to see Loughan (2.20) improve on his promising hurdles debut for Harry and Dan Skelton. The selection is fitted with a hood for the first time today and is certainly bred for the job. He is likely to get further in time, but he gets a narrow vote at the expense of Imperial Icon who is another who shaped with encouragement at Huntingdon on his first start at the beginning of the month.
No No Juliet has not been seen since disappointing at Wetherby in a Mares’ only event over Christmas but looked a useful staying chaser in the making when scoring at Southwell previously. That is the best form on offer, but I am going to take a chance on Ivilnoble (2.50) who was booked for fourth in a better race than this at Wincanton last time before unseating Harry Bannister at the last. James Davies – who was in the plate for his good run at Leicester previously – takes over in the saddle.
Alnadam (3.20) ran very well in a hot conditional jockey’s race at Newbury last time and he has been dropped 1lb for that effort. The selection is a winner between the flags over 3m – but this slight drop back in trip is likely to suit given the selection’s challenge petered out inside the last furlong over an extended 2m 4f last time. I hope it is a good afternoon for the Skeltons.
Ballybreen (3.50) has been a busy boy of late but he is just 3lbs higher than when scoring at Taunton back over timber in a first-time visor – replacing usual blinker – last week. Isabel Williams keeps the ride for her father Evan who had a couple of horses run well in defeat at Cheltenham last week.