MAKING selections for tomorrow’s National Hunt action before this morning’s declaration stage is no easy feat, particularly as much will depend on how much rain hits both Wincanton and Aintree this evening.
Once again, if the levels predicted don’t materialise, we will be confronted by reams of non-runners with trainers opting not to risk their runners on unseasonably fast ground.
The feature race on tomorrow’s Wincanton card is the Elite Hurdle (3.00pm) which could see the return of Harry Fry’s star novice hurdler IF THE CAP FITS.
Injury kept the six-year-old on the sidelines for the second half of last season, forcing him to miss a tilt at the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham and a trip to Aintree.
That setback may well have been a blessing in disguise for the unbeaten hurdler as he has been allowed time to strengthen and mature by his shrewd trainer.
If the rain doesn’t come, he could well wait for next weekend’s Greatwood Hurdle, but the promise of a small field could well tempt connections.
Nicky Henderson looks set to saddle either Verdana Blue or We Have A Dream depending on the ground conditions, but neither should have the Fry camp running to the hills.
The 7/2 generally available looks worth chancing as he will be miles shorter if taking up this engagement.
Fry looks in for a good afternoon as he has a real chance of landing the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase (2.25pm) just over half an hour earlier.
BAGS GROOVE put the benefits of his chase debut at Uttoxeter in May to use when relishing the softer ground and step up in trip at Ffos Las last month.
He jumped well that day and looks the one to beat here despite this requiring another step up.
His best form last season came in October and November and this could be the time of year to stick with him.
Secret Investor could well be tough to beat, but at the 3/1 currently available, I’m prepared to stick with Bags Groove.
Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost look set to team up again in an attempt to win the feature race on the card for a second year running.
Present Man landed the Badger Ales Trophy (3.35pm) 12 months ago and the team are back again off just a 2lbs higher mark to try and do it again.
The eight-year-old is bound to put up a good defence of his crown, but is plenty short enough at around 4/1, and comes into the race without a prep race this time.
Instead, I am going to chance David Pipe’s RAMSES DE TEILLEE should the rain arrive as that’s what he has been crying out for.
He has spent the last two weekends in the horse box on his way to Aintree and Ascot but has been declared a non-runner at both venues because of the ground.
The six-year-old bolted up under a big weight in a novices’ handicap at Chepstow this time last year on bad ground but then seemed to lose his way thereafter.
However, wind surgery over the summer may have sorted those problems and he now looks well handicapped on the best of his old form if returning to anywhere near his peak.
At 14/1 he looks a decent each-way proposition in what looks a traditionally competitive contest.
Bags Groove 2.25pm Wincanton
If The Cap Fits 3.00pm Wincanton
Ramses De Teillee e/w 3.35pm Wincanton