Newton Abbot Preview Friday 13 October 2017
The curtain comes down on the 2017 season at Newton Abbot today, with over £91,000 in prize money on offer, and Paul Nicholls, who has had his string in fine form over the summer, will be looking to scoop some more good prizes.
Nicholls is the leading trainer at the course, with 47 winners over the last five seasons, at a strike rate of 33%. He has a strong hand in the day’s feature, the Class 2 Weatherbys Racing Bank Intermediate Chase, worth almost £30,000 with the 152-rated Frodon, a winner of six chases, and three-time winner Back Corton, rated just 2lb below his stable companion.
Highest rated horse in the race, however, is Flying Angel, winner of Warwick’s Kingmaker Chase before landing the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices’ Chase over two and a half miles at Aintree, for which he has to carry a 10lb penalty. He was a long way in front of Frodon at Aintree, but disappointed when pulling up at Ayr on his next start and needs to bounce back to form today.
But, at the weights, it’s Black Corton who can come out on top. Conditional jockey Bryony Frost has been on board for his last two wins and the combination can complete the hat-trick.
The action gets underway at 2.00pm with the British Stallion Studs EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Qualifier) and Nicholls saddles Darling Maltaix, a winner in France in May 2016, who made his debut for the stable in a bumper over the course last month. He pulled too hard for his own good that day but, with some hurdles to jump, should race on a more even-keel this time.
Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton saddles Al Shahir, who won his bumper at Newcastle in good style, but comes here on the back of an eight-month lay-off. In opening up a lead at the top of the trainers’ table, Skelton has had plenty of horses win on their seasonal debut, so he will be fit enough, if good enough.
But, the vote goes to point-to-point and bumper winner, Maria’s Benefit, who was just touched off by G For Ginger on her hurdling debut at Worcester.
Nicholls’ Diego Du Charmil made an impressive chasing debut over the course last month to suggest that he can take the Class 3 Eggy Novices’ Chase en route to bigger and better things, with the Arkle Challenge Trophy at next year’s Cheltenham Festival a possible target. This will be a tougher assignment than the two-horse race he won first time out, with Space Oddity looking the main danger, but Diego Du Charmil has the speed to make a big impact over fences and will be well-supported to notch his second success.
Ballyoptic, who took on the best in long-distance hurdles last season, tops the weights in the Class 2 Weatherbys Racing Bank Handicap Hurdle over three and a quarter miles. He faces some useful opponents here, including the Nicholls’ pair of Connetable and Winningtry, but with amateur Zac Baker’s 5lb claim reducing his burden to 11-7, he might just come out on top.
Kentford Heiress, beaten just a nose by Sutter’s Mill here in July, would have 2lb more to carry in the Jon Hearne Memorial Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over two and three-quarter miles, but could gain just reward for her consistency over the summer at the expense of G For Ginger.
Colin Tizzard’s Bramble Brook has yet to win after 13 races, but his run behind The Geegeez Geegee at Stratford would give him a chance in the Kelso Races Supports The South West Chase (A Novices’ Limited Handicap) ahead of Doitforjoe.
With not a lot of form to go on, the Weatherbys Bank Foreign Exchange Standard
Open National Hunt Flat Race looks a trappy finale to the season, but River Bray, fourth at Kempton Park on his only start, could win it for Brayford trainer Victor Dartnall and jockey Nick Scholfield.