Longer trip to bring improvement
Warwick 18:00: The Wrekin 1pt win 15/4
Three non-runners have left just five to line up in the 2m5f novices' hurdle at Warwick and Bellatrixsa and Mon Frere head the market. Bellatrixsa won with more in hand than the margin suggests at Ludlow last time but the fairly steady pace of that race was more suitable for her than her rivals and she has to carry a double penalty today.
Mon Frere won comfortably when stepped up in trip at Taunton last time and a further two furlongs should be no issue for him. However, the race at Taunton fell apart with Cheng Gong having an off day so this is likely to be tougher for him and this will be his first start on ground on the soft side of good. He must prove he can handle that.
Next in the market is The Wrekin and I think there's too much between him and the front pair in the market. He started his career with Mel Rowley and won a 2m5f maiden at Maisemore on debut with a performance that suggested stamina rather than speed would be his strong suit under rules. Therefore, it was no surprise that he failed to shine in bumpers particularly given the tactics used and that he was sent to a completely unsuitable track in Fakenham for his rules debut.
Since going hurdling he's shown a level of ability more in keeping with the expectations after his point win despite running over a trip that I think was short of his optimum. On hurdling debut at Ludlow over 2m, he was no match for the 1/6 favourite Tinnahalla but stayed on well to finish second having initially been outpaced leaving the back straight.
Over the same C&D on his latest start, The Wrekin was sent to the front at the start and his stamina was put to good use. He had a look around him going away from the stands and had to be nudged along on the bend before switching on again once joined in the back straight. He was nudged along again leaving the back straight but got back to the front turning into the home straight and was pushed along going to 3 out. He was soon challenged by Olympic Conqueror and they went head-to-head up the straight before The Wrekin just got on top in the last few strides.
Olympic Conqueror was rated 118 going into that race and the third, Byzantine Empire, won a novices' hurdle yesterday. That leaves The Wrekin with a little to find with Mon Frere, who also carries a single penalty, but I think he won at Ludlow despite the distance and track not being ideal and he showed plenty of grit under pressure to hold off two horses who were travelling better than him turning into the straight.
He looked to be hanging slightly left on the bends at Ludlow so I think the switch to a left-handed track will suit and the stiffer test of stamina looks very likely to suit too. There is a chance that Tom O'Brien could go to the lead and make the running again if he wishes unless Pollards Fen, who has made the running in points, gives him a lead.
I think the current market has overestimated the gap between The Wrekin and the front pair in the market, either due to the difference in ratings or style of victory last time, and any 11/4 or bigger appeals.