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Hunter Chase - 3.25 Ludlow


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Good to see a big field of 13 for the 2nd Hunter Chase of the season especially given we have been used to seeing small fields over jumps in recent weeks. It is an interesting race as well although there are plenty that I think have little chance. Didntitellya, Tb Broke Her, Bosmna Rule and Deadly Sting are crossed off straight away. Odd to see Sadler's Risk run again so quickly after what happened at Taunton last week, but I can't have him either. Mantou won a very weak Hunter Chase at Sedgefield last year and the rest of his form last season suggests he is going to struggle to make much of an impact here. 

I find it odd to see that the Racing Post Spotlight writer suggests Little Jon has been accustomed to stronger races than this, because I don't think he has been in his last few runs. The Wincanton run was decent enough when he was 2nd back in March, but that was off 123 and even that run I don't think would be good enough to win this. Added to that I think he wants a shorter trip.

I must admit I know very about No Duffer's trainer. I am as certain as I can be that it will be his first ever runner as he hasn't trained any pointers and had no runners under rules. The only A Lake I can find in the pointing register is a jockey who had 3 rides back in 2006. My guess is it is the same guy, but I can offer no more info beyond that. He is clearly on the downgrade, but did run really well to finish 2nd at Ascot back in March, the runs either side of it weren't without promise either especially in the context of this race. If he was still with Tom George then I would have been stronger on his chances, but the percentage call is that first time out he is worth opposing especially given I know little about the trainer.

I'm really surprised Crazy Jack is in single figures for this. To be fair he had run some creditable races in hunter chases over the last couple of years before he finally won one at Stratford's Hunter Chase night. However that was a handicap and he was thrown in off a mark of 109 based on his two previous runs at Cheltenham and here at Ludlow. I don't think he quite stays this far and Now Ben has beaten him in the past and I don't think he can reverse the form. Every chance this is being used as a pipe opener for the season.

Now Ben won the John Corbet Cup in 2017 and was due to run in this race last year but was a non runner. He won 3 from 4 in points and his only Hunter Chase run was in the Stratford Foxhunters where the ground was totally against him after it was over watered. This season he returned with a good win at Cottenham in quick time as well. I'm not surprised he has already been nibbled in the betting because a double figure price about this course and distance winner was crazy. As long as they don't get too much rain the ground will be ideal.

I am surprised to see Taunton winner Road To Rome out again so soon. Hard to know the reason why either, but he has to have a big chance on that form. He thrashed them and his point rating he got after that is the same as Marinero has so it is hard to see why those two should have such a big price difference. Interestingly he has led in all four runs for his trainer so far and Now Ben and Beeves are also likely pace setters so it will  be interesting to see if Will decides to just sit in behind if he feels they are going too quick. I wasn't overly impressed with his jumping last week, but Ludlow isn't much of a jumping test and it wasn't as if he ever looked like falling. I find it hard to see him being out of the frame at the very least.

Marinero is the Maxwell chosen one from his numerous entries, but I actually don't really fancy him. That Ascot Hunter Chase he won doesn't look too bad form on first glance as the 2nd Numbercruncher, who he beat 24L, went on to win a Hunter Chase at Fontwell. However Numbercruncher was knackered and he doesn't stay that far especially in soft ground. The favourite Monsieur Gibraltar unseated his jockey and the rest weren't up too much so for me that form is very suspect. He might hit the frame, but I think the only way he can win is if the other 3 main rivals all take each other on up front and set it up for a horse to come from behind.

I can't remember Jennie Candlish having a Hunter Chase runner before and it is slightly strange they are going down this route with Beeves given his owners don't want to have runners at Cheltenham and thus unless they have a change of heart he won't be seen in the Foxhunters'. He was in front of No Duffer at Uttoxeter when he was 3rd in May so on that running he has that one beat. He was then 2nd off 147 at Perth in June which was a very good effort. He was disappointing after that in the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter. He returned at Kelso last month when 5th in a veterans' race. It was a reasonable return although I am suspect of the form. Granted the 2nd has one since, but Cultram Abbey's only Hunter Chase win came in a penalty kick at Perth and he was stuffed in the final at Sandown. Connections clearly think he is badly handicapped off 145 so it is a case of how much he has regressed as to if he is going to win this or not. The other thing to note is the other front runners in the race and will he have the legs to see off his younger rivals?

Beeves might be good enough to win this, but at 6/4 he has to be taken on. He might have needed that Kelso run, but there is also a chance he has regressed and we know both Now Ben and Road To Rome are in flying form at the moment. Given Marinero is the only other one I can give a chance to I think there is good value in backing both Now Ben and Road To Rome e/w in this. Road To Rome is clearly very progressive and it would not surprise me if he landed the 2nd Hunter Chase of the season after claiming the 1st last week. With the ground ideal for Now Ben he has to be backed as well as he looks over-priced to me. It would not surprise me if both ended up a fair bit shorter in the betting than they are now come race time.

Road To Rome 1.5pts e/w at 7/1 with William Hill and BetVictor

Now Ben 1pt e/w at 9/1 with William Hill

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Not sure I have ever found the first two winners of the season and never has the same horse won them both, but Road To Rome more than backed up his performance last week at Taunton with what I thought was an even better effort. Will was sensible on him early on as he allowed Beeves to take up the running, but when they went down the back for the first time his superior jumping took him to the front and he never saw a rival from that point on. His jumping on the whole was much better today although Cheltenham will obviously be a much different test. I was thinking Cheltenham in May was going to be the target rather than March, but he fully deserves to take his chance at the Festival. He has been put in at 25s and its a fair price although it will be much harder to make the running and as much as his jumping was good on the whole he still made a mistake so that has to be a concern as well. It seems they are going to take in the good Hunter Chase at Leicester at the end of next month on the way to the Festival.

Beeves ran a strange race. As soon as he lost the lead he was having to be niggled along. To his credit he did stay on well and he was miles clear of anything else, but it has to be a worry that he looked so lazy. It could be he needs an easy lead and he wont always face something of the winners ability, but I'm not sure I would want to be taking a short price about him next time.

Marinero has run OK and Maxwell gave him a sensible ride. Every chance he needed his first run of the season and he ran like it as well. He was 32L in front of the 4th horse so it would suggest that he can find another Hunter Chase to win this season.

Apparently No Duffer's trainer is Donald McCain's blacksmith. He was a distant 4th and I didn't really see anything that would make me want to back him next time. I did see some promise in the efforts of Little Jon and Mantou though. Both horses didn't stay which wasn't a surprise, but both showed up well for a long way and over a shorter distance at the right level they could be of interest. Crazy Jack was really disappointing and even if he needed it I'm not sure it bodes well for his season this time around. The rest were outclassed as their odds suggested they would be.

Next Hunter Chase is at Warwick on Monday.

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