PRINCESS MONONOKE (Donald McCain), 12-1, official rating 107

Having been a bit of a late starter in Irish points, she did not try Rules racing until she was seven years old and got on quite well to start with, including a small field success at Hexham. The early part of 2018 was her best spell, winning three times but the current winter has been good to her, with caveats. No victories but an average losing margin over four races of under five lengths. And therein lies the dilemma. There is no reason for her to run badly today having gone well in three out of four Carlisle visits, but what is to be a difference maker from the recent run of game losses?

ALPH (Rebecca Menzies), 11-12, or 104, hood

After finishing second on bumper debut for Nicky Henderson in May 2018 (he started at 4/11 but the one that beat him has gone on to be rated 132 as a hurdler) he had a wind op. Three more bumpers hinted that it had made things worse rather than better and he was evicted from Seven Barrows without trying a hurdle. His new home has gone to the well four times, getting a pulled up then an unseat and two defeats of about thirty lengths. A rating of 104 hardly look generous for him although having run far better in his two right-handed runs than the six going the other way is interesting.

CONDARCIA (Nicky Richards), 11-6, or 98

Most of her races have been in Ireland but since moving to Britain she has retained her winless state. Wide margin losses at Musselburgh and Catterick have sandwiched a far better showing at Sedgefield last November and confirmed the past hints that two miles is more her thing than two and a half, with undulations and/or a stiff finish helpful to dent rivals’ pace. She has only had one race each on soft and heavy going but they have been her best two results so it is odd that it has not been tried more often. This could be her lucky day.

OLD JEWRY (Daragh Bourke), 11-1, or 93

Mostly harmless to the main players in Irish points he went the same way in a couple of bumpers when coming to Britain. At the third appearance he was pitched into a novice chase and only lost by five lengths as a 66/1 chance, beaten by horses rated 127 and 105. Since that day he has appeared in four hurdle races and slotted in a change of stable but a repetition of the performance has not been witnessed. The best day has been his only race on good, so the faith for him finding his footing in the Carlisle mud is not strong.

BARNAY (Jennie Candlish), 10-10, or 88, cheekpieces

A flat winner in 2018, he changed stable soon afterwards for juvenile hurdling career that was not a success but did yield a couple of fourteen lengths fourths which hinted that the raw material for the job was not absent, just in need of some reshaping. That failed to happen in spring last year and he returned from a long summer snooze for another new yard. The first run for the current team was an encouraging second, by a length and a half, on heavy ground and the subsequent fourth of seventeen may be down to connections inexplicably finding good to soft ground – a rare and treasured commodity in 2020. This race could be much more suitable.

CALLIOPE (Dianne Sayer), 10-8, or 86, cheekpieces & tongue tie

She is a good fit for this race as despite a couple of flat wins her hurdles score currently languishes at played thirteen, no wins and two second places, and the six lengths third on heavy at Kelso last time does hint that she could have washed up in just the race to break the jumps duck. However, unlike some here, she is not lacking in races in the mud and whilst they dominate her best results so far they have failed to be a difference maker. Ditto for the cheekpieces – will they wring further improvement at the second try, or leave her standing still?

KNOCKREA (James Ewart), 10-1, or 79, tongue tie

On the upside he has won a race, it is just a shame that it was nearly five years distant – a maiden hurdle at Clonmel. The downside is that he has not been competitive in a race since June 2017, but the results since of UPP8 do include 831 days off between the last pair of them. Under the circumstances, a 62 lengths last of eight can hardly be unexpected but it could well be too soon for him to progress on that into being involved, even though he is well handicapped by about a stone and a half. However, should he be ridden patiently, the ability to cope with the ground does not rule him out of passing some stragglers for a place.

CYRANO STAR (Andrew Crook), 10-0, or 78 (real rating 63), cheekpieces

Recent runs have seen him prove that chasing is not really his thing. Then again, with one second place all he has to show from seventeen hurdle runs, he has hardly demonstrated excellence in that sphere either. The yard being on a very extended cold streak is a big dent in the hopes of the regiment of raging optimists (Cyrano platoon), but the one of the rare days where he threatened to actually win (unseated late once when going well on heavy in 2017) was on soft ground over today’s course and distance, and with the top weight on the day rated 102, it was not a dissimilar race to this one.

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 February, Carlisle 4.30, Introducing Racing TV Handicap Hurdle, Div I (class 4, 0-105)

Course: Right-handed, easy, undulating

Distance: 2 miles 1 furlong

Going: Heavy

Stables in form: none

Stables out of form: Rebecca Menzies, Andrew Crook

Claiming Jockey Watch: Abbie McCain (Princess Mononoke) claims 5 lb, 22 wins. Nathan Moscrop (Alph) claims 3 lb, 41 wins. Danny McMenamin (Condarcia) claims 3 lb, 42 wins.
HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
HeavySoftGd-SoftGoodGd-Firm2m 1fRHEasyUndul
Princess MononokeYYYxYYYY
Alphx?Y?YY?handicap debut
Old Jewry?x?YY?Y?Y?
Cyrano StarY?YxxYYYY
Points of Order
Working with the ground is going to vital in this and the selections are the two that are unexposed in the mud but have the potential to make it look as if this has been an oversight by connections in the past. Take 3/1 or more regarding either Condarcia or Barnay.
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