A limited number of spectators will be allowed back on the racecourse from tomorrow in Tiers 1 & 2 but that is not the case at Southwell today who will race on ground described as good to soft on Monday morning.
There is a valuable 2m novices’ handicap chase and winning pointer Shanacoole Prince makes his seasonal reappearance and chase debut for Kim Bailey. The seven-year-old won first time out last season when winning over hurdles on soft ground at Hereford but he may need a combination of softer ground and slightly further to be seen at his most effective.
The vote goes to Glajou (1.00) who is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Paul Nicholls having finished fourth on his chase debut at Chepstow last month. That form was let down by the first two at the weekend, but the selection has been dropped 1lb by the handicapper and this better ground should suit and help him get home as he has looked a bit of a short runner in his two starts this term.
The mare Getariver is another winner between the flags, but she has been struggling to get home over the minimum trip over timber in recent starts. She will ensure the race is run at a decent gallop, but I just favour the Nicholls’ four-year-old in a hot race.
The 2m Maiden Hurdle lost likely favourite Truckers Pass on Monday morning and I hope to see an improved performance from Fletch on his hurdles debut. The five-year-old cost £250,000 as a 3-y-o and looks sure to improve for his first start when finishing in mid-division in a Newbury Bumper last month.
Pencreek finished third in a hot Newbury contest returning from a 700-day absence last month and looks sure to go close, but Lucky One (2.00) drops back to the minimum trip having pulled too hard and, arguably, failed to get home at Uttoxeter over an additional half a mile last time. He will, hopefully, get a good gallop to chase in this 13-runner contest. If not, I hope to see Harry Cobden try to set his own fractions. He wore a hood last time and Nicholls keeps the aid today. If he ever does learn to settle, he will certainly win races.
At the time of writing both trainer Jamie Snowden – 0 winners in his last 29 runners – and jockey Gavin Sheehan – 0 win in his last 48 rides – could do with a winner and the hope is that Anythingforlove (12.50) can take the pair off the cold list at Lingfield. The mare finished fourth on her reappearance at Uttoxeter just nine days ago, but Sheehan performed wonders to keep his mount in the race given he rode without stirrups for the whole of the race. I hope swift compensation awaits.
Hang Tough (1.50) was a brave winner here on his chase debut and he is taken to defy a 7lbs hike in the weights for Jonjo O’Neill. The selection looks sure to make up into a better chaser than hurdler and he receives weight from his market rivals including Little Red Lion who was brought down on his chase debut.
Only four go to post for the concluding 2m handicap hurdle for flat jockeys but I hope to see Little Rory Mac (3.23) improve for his seasonal reappearance when he pulled hard and failed to get home at Plumpton over an additional three furlongs. The selection should get a good tow into the race from the veteran Top Gamble who would not be suited if the race turned into a sprint. Joey Haynes take the ride for Dr Richard Newland and there will be plenty of lead in the saddle with Haynes able to ride at 8st 2lbs yet his mount will carry 11st this afternoon.
It took Ravenscar 14 runs to get off the mark, but she broke her maiden tag under Silvestre De Sousa over today’s C&D at Newcastle last month and is taken to follow up from a 4lbs higher mark. Regular pilot Kevin Stott returns to the saddle and the filly is taken to defy the small rise.