The Plan is to pick a race each day and give it a fairly detailed preview - hopefully picking up a worthwhile punt, but not scrabbling around for one. In reality, the "every jumps day" might prove impractical. For instance, you have been to Plumpton, had a couple of pints, get the train back, go to the pub. There might well be time to go through a race and publish, but no-one wants the unintelligible guff. So The Plan and The Harsh Reality may not always coincide.

The verdict is simple for each horse: The more Axes the better, but lay, or at least avoid, the Stalins. Keep a wary eye on the Mysterons
In order to handle changeable ground, a preference table has been added - the key is:
Y+ = Strong preference      Y = OK      Y? = Probably OK      ?Y = Maybe OK      ? = insufficient evidence
?x = Maybe a problem      x? = probably a problem      x = definite problem      blank = no evidence to judge
17th July,Worcester 6.50, PP Control & Automation Handicap Hurdle (class 3, 0-140)

Course: Left-handed, galloping, level

Distance: 2 miles 7 furlongs

Going: Good

Stables in strong form: Nicky Henderson

Stables in below par form: none

Claiming jockey watch: Rex Dingle (Ennistown) claims 10 lb, 3/46. Harry Stock (Good Tradition) claims 5 lb, 25/172. Page Fuller (Lord Topper) claims 5 lb, 35/283. Richard Patrick (Eureu De Boulay) claims 5 lb, 37/270.
A pretty solid race for the time of year and weather, and the selections are Sky Pirate and Champagne Express. The minimum price for each is 9/2, due to the steady and functional competition. That might well never appear, so there could be more mileage in an each-way on Mr McGuinness if all eight turn out.

HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoft Gd-SoftGoodGd-Fm2m 7fLHGallopLevel
------------------------ -------- -------------------------------------------
EnnistownYYYYYYYYstable debut
Sky Pirate?YYYYY
Champagne ExpressYYYYY?no run beyond 2m 5f
Good Traditionx?Y?xYY?Y?Yno run beyond 2m 6f
Mr McGuinnessYY?xY?YYY
Lord TopperY?Y?YYY
Eureu De Boulay?Y?YY?Yno run beyond 2m 4f
Points of Order

ENNISTOWN (Anthony Honeyball), 11-12, official rating 135, tongue tie

A top division flat horse with five wins there, he split his jumps time before now between John Ferguson and David Pipe, and whilst they both got him to win, a score of three from twelve was not as much as might have been hoped for. In 2015 he was a dual course winner at two miles and in 2016 a staying hurdle victor at Cartmel. Last year he only managed two runs, both in September and both incredibly feeble, so he not only has a new yard but also nigh on ten months off before this. So in a nutshell, he has done nothing since falling at Aintree towards the end of 2016. Very beatable, despite proven ability.

SKY PIRATE (Jonjo O’Neill), 11-8, or 131

Won a similar sort of race over course and distance at the end of June. The handicapper has raised him eight pounds in the ratings, which could be viewed as harsh, but not if the view is taken that the competent oppo all ran towards the upper realms of their talents – a couple got outpaced mid-race only to stay on dourly, so that is a viable scenario. Before that he had been a close third in his staying hurdle bow at Aintree in May, and the earlier career was all about leading up to this – a Maiden win at Larkhill was his only pointing run, and he had a first (also at Worcester), a second and a third in hurdle races. Unexposed and potentially with more improvement to come, he needs to be taken seriously, although a couple of extra runners could make this a tougher challenge than his latest success.

CHAMPAGNE EXPRESS (Nicky Henderson), 11-5, or 128

Started favourite to beat Minella Rocco on his Irish pointing debut (but failed) and second time up he was a beaten favourite again. It was third time lucky, by which time he had moved to Nicky Henderson and gone hurdling, landing a decent enough Chepstow Race before being a six lengths third to Rock The Kasbah at Newbury when conceding him weight. In 2016 he only ran twice, and pulled up both times (once behind Might Bite at Kempton). Two years absence ensued, but he returned with a jumpers bumper run at Kempton to warm up and a victory in a twenty-two horse race at Cheltenham in April, for which he is only raised five pounds – only three and a half lengths split the first eight. He too could turn out to be well ahead of the handicapper, but he has not raced over this far before.

BENEAGLES (Alan King), 11-3, or 126, visor

Seems to be hard to keep in tip top nick as since his debut, five of his ten races have taken place after eight weeks or more break. Sometimes they have gone well, sometimes not. It is worth noting that the only win was when blessed with a rushed five week prep, and involved only one opponent. A bit more ominous is three second places by three-quarters of a length, a short head and two lengths in his last race. It would have been reassuring if he had managed to get his nose in front for one of those to prove himself in a proper battle. The addition of a visor suggests that connections feel the same, although it has not yet worked, and one run in cheekpieces was a shambles.

GOOD TRADITION (Donald McCain), 11-2, or 125

A minority representative in his yard as he has not won and Irish point. In fact he was a flat horse in Ireland and quite good at it, although merciless handicapping made victories rare. Over hurdles he has not been dealt such a harsh hand, but two weeks ago he won a Stratford race by nearly thirty lengths and has been raised from 116 to 125 in one hit – which could have been worse, but he was a very much known quantity prior to that and when the massacre happened, it may have been prudent to ask questions of the efforts of the victims to avoid it. E.g. the margin could have been halved had the horse in second not tipped up at the final hurdle. This horse had never raced on good to firm over jumps and that may have been a big help. After a warm day, he could get that here, but maybe not officially.

MR MCGUINNESS (Rosemary Gasson), 11-1, or 124

His last run was over course and distance at the start of June, when he was beaten five lengths by the consistent Theatrebar, who went on to be runner-up to Sky Pirate at the end of that month. As it was the first race for this horse for six months, some improved fitness for it is likely – he usually comes on for the run, but does not typically have such a long gap, forty-five days here, on to that second appearance. Two of his three career victories were on this track last summer, but at only 2m 4f, and despite the last race, there is the realistic chance that other horses see out the race more strongly. However, with a small yard in amongst the big guns and form figures that are worse at face value than the actual performances, he is likely to be overpriced.

LORD TOPPER (Jamie Snowden), 10-12, or 121, blinkers

He won the Preview race on Saturday, but it turned into such a feeble mess that despite the heat, it is feasible that he can turn out here without an energy shortage after the success that required no effort – the only other finisher was the eternal dodgepot Linguine. First time blinkers were on, but they did not need to make a difference. Prior to that, this horse had not won since his second hurdle race in April last year, but he had endured some very near misses, such as at Uttoxeter (2m 7.5f) and Warwick (3m 2f). If anything, this race could be seen as too speedy for him, and it would not be amazing if he got a little outpaced in the middle and was staying on late. Possibly not in the nick of time.

EUREU DU BOULAY (Richard Hobson), 10-5, or 115 (age allowance 4 lb), tongue tie

In 2017 he was running in France and built up to a win at Fontainebleau in the autumn. His next appearance was in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he set off in front and began a gradual retreat from an early stage. After a thrashing at Taunton, wind surgery occurred and he has gradually progressed. A sixth of twelve at Southwell was followed by two races at Uttoxeter, where he was beaten by seven and then one lengths. He has not raced beyond 2m 4f and compared to e.g. Champagne Express, the credentials for needing to do so are not terribly powerful. If this were not such a relentless gallopers track, it would be easier to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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