THE VERY THING (Micky Hammond), 11-12, official rating 96, hood

He set out his stall on debut, when starting odds-on in an all-weather bumper and getting narrowly beaten. Last winter he was beaten favourite in two out of four hurdle runs as well. As spring arrived he lost his form quite quickly - and almost refused to race once - leading to big budget connections giving up on him and selling. This winter he was late arrival at the battle for his new yard, and was beaten twenty-six lengths when finishing third. He has pulled up twice since, including in a first time hood. Not supportable at the moment.

POND ROAD (Kim Bailey), 11-10, or 95, cheekpieces

After running OK for a third and a fourth in bumpers he did not make the switch to hurdles very effectively and even when he finished third he was beaten 39 by lengths. All of that was at two miles and on handicap debut he stepped up to 3m 2f and only lost by ten lengths in finishing fourth, although both of the first two were horses who do not always look as if their heart is in hard work. Dropped back to two and a half miles after that he pulled up in first time cheekpieces but was an encouraging two lengths fourth of eighteen last month. Third placed Galtee Mountain won on Saturday.

SKYLANNA BREEZE (Jonjo O'Neill), 11-8, or 93, blinkers

On his Irish point debut he pulled up but in the next two runs managed to be placed. For the Rules debut in a bumper he only beat one of his eleven opponents but the margin was not disastrous. Next stop was a trio of two mile hurdles, in which he was always well seen off but ended up in midfield twice. For his handicap debut he was sixth in the same race as Pond Road, eleven lengths behind that rival. He is three pounds better off but this longer distance looks good for Pond Road, whereas in this horse's case we do not know.

BEE CROSSING (Michael Scudamore), 11-5, or 90, cheekpieces

Her last three races have been over fences, where she has insistently shown us that it is a job which she is not really cut out for. She did win one of six British points, a Larkhill maiden three years ago, but over hurdles she has proved annoyingly adept at getting placed without ever sneaking a nose in front. Her closest call was a 2m 5f Towcester race on heavy, which implies that she has oodles of stamina, but the only actual three miler contested was one of the abortive chase attempts. A staying hurdle could be the measure she has been awaiting.

ON WE GO (Kenny Johnson), 11-2, or 87, cheekpieces

She has actually won a hurdle race, a 2m 5.5f event on heavy at Ayr in January. The average losing margin in three races since has been 67 lengths, and for good measure it was only her first two handicap races that were anything better from five older tries. A score of 0/13 in Irish points suggests that she does not have an invincible winning spirit and does not create an impression on potential buyers that she is there to be improved either. Cheekpieces being added last time was not obviously beneficial.

INCERTAINE (Tom Gretton), 11-2, or 87, blinkers

Another winning mare that has avoided being dropped in on a high weight, she took a five horse race at Market Rasen in November in first time hood, first time cheekpieces AND first time tongue tie. The hood was gone for the next run and after two thirty lengths plus drubbings, the other two bits of kit have been swapped for blinkers. It is not possible to tell whether Wetherby is her sort of track or not, but she almost certainly stays this far and might again respond to the shock of the new.

BLACK OPIUM (Tina Jackson), 11-0, or 85

She is less experienced than her rivals, with only two bumpers (well beaten both times) and three novice hurdles (well beaten three times) to her name. On each occasion she has not had many horses behind her, so the concept of having ability above the very bottom drawer remains to be proven. She has progressed from not jumping well to being outpaced which does mean that there is a chance that she gets home better if nobody sets a daft pace for this.

ESPOIR MORIVIERE (Rose Dobbin), 10-3, or 74

With the lack of achievement on Black Opium's CV, there is not any reason to expect much from a horse conceding rated eleven pounds worse, even when allowing for the handicapper having been in guess mode. There have been a dozen races to work with on this one, but it has not all been bad news. Once in handicaps he was broadly competitive in a couple of low level Hexham staying hurdles, and did the same twice at that track in November, one over 2m 4f. Even last time he was fourth over Sedgefield at 3m 3f. With that profile, Wetherby seems too much like a speedster's sort of venue and that he definitely is not.
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 March, Wetherby 4.55, Happt St Patrick's Day Novices' Handicap Hurdle (class 5, 0-100)

Course: Left-handed, galloping, level

Distance: 3 miles

Going: Soft

Stables in form: Kim Bailey

Stables out of form: Tom Gretton, Tina Jackson

Claiming Jockey Watch: none
HorseGoing DistanceCourse Comments
The Very Thing?YY?x?YYYproven to 2m 4f
Pond RoadY?Y??YYY?Y
Skylanna BreezeY?????Yproven to 2m 4.5f
Bee CrossingYY??YYY
On We GoY?Y??YYYproven to 2m 5.5f
Incertaine?Y?xY????1st time blinkers
Black Opiumx?????handicap debut, no run beyond 2m 4.5f
Espoir MoriviereYY??x?YY??
Points of Order
This looks like a race for Pond Road and the limitations of the oppo means that 2/1 can be entertained as the minimum price.
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