Rhys Williams has analysed Wednesday's racing and has five selections...
Promise in bumper runs
It doesn't get much weaker than a mares maiden hurdle where horses must have run at least three times in national hunt races and not finished in the first three in any race under rules, as shown by the 7/2 third favourite being rated 94. Rather than focus on those that have shown minor promise recently, I think there are two horses who ran awfully in their latest outings but could be capable of better.
Flibinight is having her first start for Liam Burke having run three times in Britain for Nick Gifford. She ran a promising race on debut at Fakenham when racing keenly early on at the back of the field before making smooth headway to be just off the leaders after turning out of the back straight. She couldn't sustain that effort and was beaten 10 lengths in sixth. That was a good bumper for the track, with the first three home all now rated 120+ over hurdles.
She was ridden more prominently next time at Newbury and again raced quite keenly. She was one of few still travelling well with just over three furlongs to go but she didn't find much under pressure after that and dropped away to finish ninth. Two of the first three home are now rated 120+ over hurdles.
She was last of 11 and beaten 80 lengths on hurdling debut at Warwick, which is obviously a concern coming into this race, but she did at least show an aptitude for jumping.
It may turn out that she doesn't even stay a sharp 2m but a hood goes on for the first time, which will hopefully help her settle better, and there's a positive trainer switch with the move to Liam Burke.
A repeat of the ability that she showed in how she travelled in bumpers would make her competitive in such a weak race and, although the market has somewhat picked up on her chance this morning, any 10/1 or bigger still appeals.
Better ground likely to suit
Taxi Rank has been beaten a combined 304 lengths in her latest two starts in bumpers but there was a glimmer of promise in her hurdling debut in a much stronger maiden hurdle over this C&D in October.
She was held up and was still travelling well towards the back of the field at the end of the back straight. She was briefly urged along going down the side of the course but was a long way behind at that stage and wasn't given a hard time after but finished with something left, 32 lengths behind the winner.
The winner of that race was Champagne Gold, who is now rated 138 over hurdles, while the second and third are now rated 125 and 128 respectively. Finishing just behind Taxi Rank was Satin Sun, who is now rated 104 over hurdles.
Taxi Rank has ran terribly in two runs since but her action suggests she wants good ground so the extremely testing conditions in both occasions may have been the cause of that.
Although there is some rain forecast today, it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the ground by this stage of the day so it should still be suitable for her.
There is the chance that she's just gone backwards but in a very weak race, I think there was enough ability shown on hurdling debut to take any 16/1 or bigger.
Likely strong pace should suit patient tactics
With only one horse in the hunter chase at Cartmel being under the age of 10, it's a case of which horses are still showing they have some enthusiasm and ability left rather than considering anything progressing. With Minella Daddy having looked less than keen than last, Looking Well not appearing to be the easiest of rides and Reikers Island having looked tricky on his last hunter chase start two runs ago, I prefer to look away from the leading trio in the market.
Anteros has never been the most straightforward of rides either but that's down to judging the right time to deliver a challenge on him rather than his lack of willingness early in a race. He's had a career of regularly travelling well in races and his first start in a point to point at Mollington last time suggests he's still got plenty of enthusiasm for the game.
He was initially held up before making headway early on the final circuit to track the leaders. He moved into a clear second turning out of the back and still looked to be going well but came under driving going down the hill. He kept battling on but had little left after the last and finished fourth, beaten 14½ lengths.
The winner of that race has since finished third in a hunter chase at Warwick while the runner up was coming into the race on the back of two wins.
The way that Anteros travelled for a lot of that race showed that he's still got enough ability and enthusiasm to be competitive in a race of this quality, particularly given that it's likely to be run to suit. There could be a good pace with Knockaderry Flyer, Minella Daddy and Reikers Island all likely wanting the lead. A more patient ride than at Mollington would suit Anteros in these circumstances to make a late challenge.
There is the concern that his inexperienced rider is only able to claim the same as the likes of Lyall Hodgins and Huw Edwards and only 2lb more than Immy Robinson but she does have the benefit of familiarity with the horse that can counter that somewhat.
In a race where the front three aren't certain to run anywhere near their ratings, any 5/1 or bigger appeals.
Significant positive trainer switch
It may turn out that Stonific is a class above his rivals in this staying handicap as he drops down to a class 5 but there's an interesting runner at the opposite end of the market.
Wynford showed some ability early in his career for Andrew Balding on the flat and again over jumps when moving to Dan Skelton, reaching a peak of 133 in that sphere.
However, he moved from Skelton to Lucinda Egerton in May 2019 and his form has been on the decline ever since. He ran well on one occasion in 2019 when third at Ayr but since returning last year from a 428-day break, his results have been poor including following a wind op on his last run.
He did show a bit of promise though on his run prior to that in a jumpers bumper at Newcastle, travelling well for a long way before dropping away in the closing stages and finishing a well-beaten sixth.
That at least suggested that he still had some ability left and he now has his first start for Rebecca Menzies, a big positive trainer switch.
During his time with Egerton, Wynford's rating on the flat slipped from 72 to 57 and it wouldn't be a surprise if Menzies is able to get him back near to 72 at some point.
It may be that she will need more time, as the horse has only been with her for about a month, and Wynford has looked a tricky ride in the past, particularly when it comes to hanging left late on which is obviously a concern with no rail to stop him at Ripon.
The initial very big prices were unsurprisingly taken but given the potential for revival with the trainer switch, any 10/1 or bigger still appeals in a race where none of these are 100% reliable.
Better ground and time off to bring improvement
Babindi and Barn Owl set a fairly good standard in this 1m3f novice race but I think Harlem Soul could be capable of improving past them given what he showed last year.
He was clearly green on debut at Pontefract over 1m2f in October and had to be shaken along early to get a position on the rail in fourth. He briefly dropped back into fifth before being angled wide to get a clear run with four furlongs to go. Pushed along, he moved into third starting the turn for the home straight and came under stronger pressure. He ran on well, despite edging left, but couldn't challenge the winner at any stage and was beaten 3¼ lengths.
He was disappointing in his only subsequent run at Newmarket when sent off favourite but he sweated up before and I think the heavy ground was unsuitable for him.
Although he ran well on soft ground on debut, I think it was a case of him just about handling that and that the ground made it the test of stamina that he needs as his action suggests he wants better ground and he gets that tonight.
He also looked the type physically to improve with time and I expect he's now far more of the finished article in that sense and improvement will come with that.
It may be that he will ideally want a bit further in time but this is a good starting point for the season and I think he's more of a danger to the front pair than the market suggests, with any 3/1 or bigger underestimating his chance.
RHYS' PROFIT/LOSS 2021
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