BALLYCROSS (Paul George), 12-2, official rating 126

When spending a big chunk of his career with Nigel Twiston-Davies he repeatedly threatened to make a breakthrough into a higher level, only to never pull it off properly and he ended up with only two successes from a couple of dozen runs. The lesson that he gave us was that whilst he appeared to act on all going, there was softer ground bias that perhaps made the difference between the wins and the places. After pulling up in three chases on the spin and changing stable in the summer, he ran well last time as a hurdler - but it was on good to soft.

BENEAGLES (Alan King), 12-2, or 126, visor

About a year ago he had a fall at Newton Abbot and needed a long break to recover. The comeback was pretty ordinary stuff and the second run back was unexceptional, but it ws a step in the right direction. And here he is back on the course, distance and going where he won last summer, when also rated 126. The only other success was in a two horse race. With good performances at Ffos Las and Newbury (twice) there is the faith that a galloping track is going to favour him moren than Southwell did last time.

JIMMY RABBITTE (Richard Newland), 11-12, or 122

Brought over from Ireland late last year after his first win, he turned that into a hat trick via Taunton and Catterick and when he lost the next three runs, the average margin was only three lengths. This consistency meant that he was able to revive into beating Pink Eyed Pedro at Ffos Las in July. That was 2m 4f, a step up on earlier triumphs, but when he went slightly further next time he ran a stinker, although he was doing so before stamina became a factor. He ran reasonably to be second here two weeks ago, but his uncertain stamina and high weight are not a tempting combination.

PINK EYED PEDRO (David Brace), 11-10, or 120, tongue tie

A prolific pointer with a tally of ten wins in twenty races, he had developed a history of failing to translate that demonstrable ability to races under Rules. Suddenly in late April he worked out just what this stuff is all about and won a novices' hunter chase at Chepstow. Since then he has a novice hurdle win here, a chase success at Ffos Las and four defeats, none of which were by a wider margin than five lengths. On literal handicapping he is weighted to tie with the Rabbitte but the extra distance seems more likely to be to his advantage.

MORE BUCK'S (Peter Bowen), 11-10, or 120, tongue tie

Consistency has never been one of his strong points but he has bashed his way through the setbacks to win eight races, although six have been over fences. As a hurdler he has only one victory from seven races, and that was more than four years ago. None of the good days have occurred on a galloping course, although being pitched into high class races at Cheltenham, Newbury and the Grand National course at Aintree has been a saboteur to his stats. In addition to that he is more effective right-handed and has not really been in threatening form as a chaser recently.

WILBERDRAGON (Charlie Longsdon), 11-7, or 117, cheekpieces & tongue tie

Between bumpers and hurdles he won three of his first five races but that was unsustainable and in the subsequent four and a half years there have only been two triumphs from twenty-one races. One of them was in July over course, distance and going as a chaser, which followed wind surgery. He pulled up in the next run and went back to hurdles, where he was second of five to Tea Time Fred, again on course, distance and going. Having in the past performed well from higher ratings, he has to be worth thinking about here. Trouble is, he could be doing too much thinking himself.

LORD IN RED (Christian Williams), 11-7, or 117, cheekpieces

In a not uncommon scenario he only managed one win in Ireland but a series of decent efforts were lost in the crowds of big fields. When he first came to Britain it seemed likely that he would find places to replicate the success in a seventeen horse race at Roscommon. Initially it went horribly wrong, with a couple of tame fifths and a couple of pulled ups. However he settled in eventually and his last three runs have involved two chase victories and a neck second in an amateur riders' staying hurdle at Warwick. One more strong showing is viable.

MIGHTY LEADER (John O'Shea), 11-6, or 116, tongue tie

Over the years he has racked up a very nice tally of success but the plot has been lost since he won at Perth a year ago, rated 130 in a chase. He had a most underwhelming spell of pointing at the start of this year and whilst his comeback to hurdles on stable debut in July did not look too bad at the time, he has come up well short of it in two further attempts. For the most part he has not looked totally at ease on galloping courses but the two exceptions were both at Worcester, so maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt on that. Recent form crushes that generosity beyond consideration.

HATTAB (Graeme McPherson), 10-11, or 107

Having managed to be steadily lacking in success through bumpers, flat racing and hurdles, it had looked like time to give up on him earlier this summer as he made three hefty efforts and still ended up narrowly beaten in each one. A perhaps belated step up to 2m 7f did not initially help but last time he added himself to this race's roll of course, distance and going winners in a maiden hurdle. The only viable opponent ran like a non-stayer so on returning to a) the scene of the crime and b) handicaps his credentials are still not compelling, even though he remains on the mark for the run of form a few months back.

TEA TIME FRED (Sue Gardner), 10-11, or 107, cheekpieces

As noted earlier, he recently defeated Wilberdragon around Worcester, surprisingly his first visit to the course. That took his career score to three successes from forty runs, which does not look good for him nor for Wilberdragon. However, he does get placed often, so even if you adopt the reasonable stance that after three years without a win, he might not have reformed himself to suddenly pick up two races in less than three weeks, he has the talent to win here and should the betting dismisss his likelihood of doubling up, each-way consideration is still merited.
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
16th September, Worcester 3.50, Derek Newton Supports West Midlands Air Ambulance Handicap Hurdle (class 3, 0-125)

Course: Left-handed, galloping, level

Distance: 2 miles 7 furlongs

Going: Good

Stables in strong form: Alan King, Richard Newland

Stables out of form: none

Claiming Jockey Watch: Daniel Sansom (Ballycross) claims 3 lb, 42 wins. Alexander Thorne (Beneagles) claims 7 lb, 16 wins. Conor Brace (Pink Eyed Pedro) claims 5 lb, 37 wins. Brodie Hampson (Mighty Leader) claims 5 lb, 38 wins
HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoftGd-SoftGoodGd-Firm2m 7fLHGallopLevel
Jimmy RabbittexY?YYYYproven to 2m 4f
Pink Eyed Pedro??YY?YYYY
More Buck'sY?Y?YYYxY
Lord In Red?Y?YY?YYYYY?Y
Mighty LeaderYYYYYY?YY
Points of Order
The in-form Lord In Red is the main selection, at prices of 7/2 and upwards. With a nice turnout, any acceptable each-way price on the often dismissed Tea Time Fred is worth a second glance - he has been in the first three for 40% of his hurdle runs.
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