Saturday 14 March 2020

Saturday 14th March 2020: Nicholls Runner Just Fabulous in Kempton’s Grade 3

It’s tough on all of us, but we have to put Cheltenham behind us now and concentrate on the bread and butter of Saturday afternoon racing!

Kempton hosts a very competitive jumps card on which we can back the standout performer of the day, all being well at least, while Newcastle also stages National Hunt racing which provides a stern test for runners in the prevailing weather.

Across at Wolverhampton the only flat meeting on the card is a decent one containing a few class 3 races with in-form runners and two of them in particular look great value, but we start with Kempton and a horse we could have been seeing in a different setting several days ago.

2.05 Kempton (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – McFABULOUS

Having won Aintree’s Grade 2 bumper last season in good style this horse appeared to be heading right to the top, but a slow start over hurdles led to some completely losing faith in him as far as this sphere goes.

In truth he has steadily improved in three hurdle runs to date, culminating in a cosy win last time out at Market Rasen that has put him spot on for this race.

Had he managed that performance one run and three weeks earlier he’d no doubt have been heading to Cheltenham with a leading chance this week, so entering this Grade 3 race off a mark of 132 makes him look very well handicapped indeed and it would be disappointing were he not able to score for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden.

Of the others the overpriced Blackfinch has a shout, his seconditis not defining him with improvement now likely in today’s race conditions, while Hurricane Harvey is another in with a chance each-way.

3.45 Newcastle (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – POLISH

The finish at Newcastle will take some getting this weekend on soft ground, but the one able to cope with it best I feel is Fergal O’Brien’s Polish who is backed at a very attractive 8/1 at the time of writing.

The only runner sent up from Gloucestershire by the Cheltenham-based handler, Polish is having only his fourth start over hurdles and while he has been consistent and improved slowly so far, he can reach a new level for this extra test of his stamina.

Pound for pound, his best run was his hurdles debut on soft ground over 2m3f at Taunton and while he’s run well since, he has probably been a little inconvenienced by running on ground just a little quicker than ideal, especially at Kempton where it’s very flat.

Today he has soft ground, a two-and-three-quarter-mile trip and a stiff finish all of which will see him run to his full potential on what is only his second handicap start.

The rest are all very close on private ratings with not much to choose between Baron De Midleton, Landronne and the likely short-priced favourite Minella Trump who has the assistance of Brian Hughes in the saddle.

6.30 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – DEPUTISE

This is a small but competitive class 3 handicap over six furlongs in which there should be plenty of speed on show, something that should help Deputise who is long overdue a return to this course.

While he’s won races at Chester and Newcastle in the past, he is an impeccable two from two here with his last run at the track being back in December 2018 when he put in easily his best speed figure over today’s course and distance.

In running very well when third at Lingfield to Fizzy Feet who opposes again here, he made a good stable debut two weeks ago but that race was not run to suit so we can assume he will do a lot better here and probably at a thoroughly backable price too.  Franny Norton rides.

There are a number of others in the pack who can have their say in this race, most notably Tathmeen and Wild Edric, but as a four-year-old who overall probably even has a career high to come our horse gets the nod to land his first win for Michael Wigham.

7.00 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – UNIVERSAL GLEAM

This is another tight handicap, this time over a trip just short of a mile-and-a-quarter.  Some decent horses rated 90+ are taking part here and they’re in form too meaning this is no egg and spoon race, but one does stand out especially on speed figures record on this surface type and he can may well be allowed to go off at a nice price.

That horse is Universal Gleam of Keith Dalgleish’s yard all the way up in Lanarkshire, with the team hoping to land a nice double with their Caustic Love in the following race, a fillies’ handicap for which she is favourite.

In this one they have a representative who has been thoroughly consistent of late, winning and finishing third at Lingfield before finishing fourth over this course and distance last month, but his latest race was a small and slow affair and simply didn’t play to his strengths.

Today, given the fact that as mentioned we have a competitive field which will keep the pace honest, he can put his best foot forward and looks capable of digging out another few pounds.  If he can, that’s something that as he’s actually gone down a pound in the handicap since his last run would hand him a winning chance.

Richard Fahey’s versatile all-weather performer Furzig won’t mind this surface and enters calculations, as does the popular Sha La La La Lee for Tom Dascombe while Rangali Island makes up the shortlist seeking the four-timer for David Simcock.

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