For the second day running, the feature event here on Thursday was in the balance until its final moment as Unowhatimeanharry, the beaten favourite behind Nichols Canyon in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, turned around the form under a bold ride by Noel Fehily and held off his old rival by a head. Ruby Walsh threw everything into his finish […]
t was fun when the late-April meeting at Sandown Park mixed Flat and National Hunt racing on the same afternoon, but it is difficult to argue with the move to partition the meeting into separate days for the two codes when it produces a card as deep and intriguing as the one at the Esher track today.
From the Esher Cup at the top of the card, when the Derby-entry Atty Persse (1.50) makes his seasonal debut, to the handicap at the other end, which was won by the subsequent Irish Derby winner Jack Hobbs two years ago, there are fascinating and potentially significant races throughout the afternoon. Atty Persse is definitely worth a bet at around 3-1 on the basis of his sole, successful outing last season, when he won over today’s course and distance in a very impressive time for a maiden event, and Naseem (5.10) should take the closer for John Gosden, who saddled Jack Hobbs two years ago and also holds a strong hand in the Classic Trial earlier in the afternoon.
Frankel has a major presence in this race as well. Three of the five runners represent his first Classic generation, including Cunco and Frankuus, who were both maiden winners in the early months of last season. The most interesting runner in the race, though, is Monarchs Glen (2.55), who did not make his juvenile debut until September but has won his two races since with plenty in hand. He laughed at an opening mark of 87 when successful in a handicap at Kempton earlier this month and seems highly likely to follow up as he steps into Group Three company this afternoon.
Sovereign Debt is most familiar as a leading performer on the all-wether, most recently when successful in the Mile championship on Finals day at Lingfield. He is also very capable on the turf though, and should not be underestimated at around 7-1 for the Bet365 Mile.
Stake Acclaim (4.30) made a very promising return to action at Windsor earlier this week and could well show the benefit when he make a quick return to the fray at Doncaster this afternoon. Luang Prabang (2.45) is another to look out for the same card, while Urban Kode (3.45) and Chevalgris (6.30) must go well at Perth and Chepstow respectively.
A crowd of around 30,000 will squeeze into Punchestown later on this afternoon for a Ladies’ Day card which features the Punchestown Champion Hurdle at 5.30. The race lacks an outstanding, proven champion, but it is none the poorer for that as a dozen runners are due to go to post, including at least eight with some sort of chance on the book.
In the case of Labaik, the Supreme Novice Hurdle winner at Cheltenham last month, that chance could be gone within five seconds of the start, as he effectively refused to race once again here on Tuesday and it is very possible he will do so again today. But he is Gordon Elliott’s only hope in a race that includes five runners from the Willie Mullins stable, and Ireland’s defending champion trainer could do with not just the winner, but a placed horse or two as well as he attempts to snatch the championship from Elliott’s grasp.
Arctic Fire (5.30) looked as good as ever when successful in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last time and could be on the brink of just the second Grade 1 success of his long and distinguished career. Finians Oscar (6.05) should also make his class tell in the card’s second Grade 1 event, the Champion Novice Hurdle.