Exeter and Wolverhampton previews: Spring the Devon National choice
David Metcalf | February 26, 2016
Spring can Return to winning ways at Exeter
The big race of the day at Exeter is the Devon National Handicap Chase (15.55), and Return Spring can take advantage of a drop in the weights to land a competitive renewal of the 3m 6f contest.
Trained by Philip Hobbs, the gelding was a useful staying hurdler who came came good at the second time of asking over fences when digging deep to beat the well-regarded Highland Retreat by a neck in a 3m novice chase at this venue in very testing conditions off an official rating of 138.
Return Spring went on to finish a decent third Kings Palace in a Grade 2 contest at Cheltenham, and was also far from disgraced when ninth of 17 to Cause Of Causes in the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival off a mark of 140.
The nine-year-old is now able to race off a reduced rating of just 126, and that is a career-low which gives him an outstanding chance from a handicapping perspective on the pick of his form.
Although not at his best last time out when pulled-up in the Coral Welsh Grand National, Return Spring had previously shaped nicely on seasonal reappearance when fifth of 12 to Knock House in a decent contest at Cheltenham.
Connections are also now fitting Return Spring with the cheekpieces for the first time, and if the headgear has the desired effect the son of Vinnie Roe, looks weighted to take all the beating.
Say My Name has plenty going for him on handicap debut
In the 2m 7f handicap hurdle (17.00), Say My Name can cash-in on what looks a lenient mark to open his account.
The Bob Buckler trained gelding has some decent form in bumpers and has run really well to finish runner-up in two of his four starts over hurdles this season.
In the first of those, Say My Name stayed on well to be beaten five lengths by Monbeg Gold over course and distance.
The winner has won again since and is now rated 128, the third home Millanisi Boy went on to finish a four length runner-up to the 152-rated Unowhatimeanharry before winning again and is now rated 125, and the fourth and sixth home have also gone on to taste success.
That gives the form a very strong look in the contest of this class 4 contest, and suggests that an opening handicap mark of 115 for Say My Name is very exploitable.
14.20: Girly Girl
15.20: Captain Chaos
15.55: Return Spring (NAP)
17.00: Say My Name (NB)
17.30: Old Magic
Mountain Man handicapped to strike at Wolverhampton
Mountain Man was a big eye-catcher last time out and can take advantage of a career-low mark to land the 5f handicap on this evening’s card at Wolverhampton (19.15).
The Mick Easterby trained gelding has won just one of his 15 starts, with that success coming in a class 5 contest at Nottingham where he held on gamely to score by a a neck off a mark of 62 before losing the race in the stewards’ room.
This four-year-old went on to be placed off marks as high as 69, and is now able to race in this class 6 affair off just 56.
That makes Mountain Man dangerously well-treated on the pick of his form, and he comes into the race having shaped as if his time was near when fourth over course and distance 18 days ago.
Unlike in the majority of races where Mountain Man has been ridden prominently, the son of Hellvelyn was dropped in at the rear of the field before making good late headway under tender handling, to be nearest at the finish and beaten 2 3/4 lengths.
It was an excellent effort under the circumstances, and having been ridden by an inexperienced 7lb claimer in his last three starts Mountain Man now gets the professional services of Graham Gibbons in the saddle.
That suggests connections mean business, as it is a tactic which they have used before to pull of gambles at this venue with well handicapped horses.
Next Edition weighted to get back to winning ways
In the 1m 5f handicap (18.15), the well-treated Next Edition looks to have been found a nice opportunity to score an overdue success.
The Phil Kirby trained eight-year-old is on a long losing run, having not scored since landing a class 4 contest at Musselburgh back in May 2013 by 3 1/4 lengths off a mark of 76.
However, the gelding has run well to make the frame on numerous occasions and is now able to race in this class 6 contest off a reduced rating of just 60.
That is a massive 16lb lower than when last successful, and although not at his best in his last three starts Next Edition had previously hinted that his time was near in two runs over course and distance in class 5 contests.
After finishing 1 1/2 length third to With Hindsight when getting little assistance in the saddle from a very inexperienced rider, Next Edition failed by just a head to overhaul the same rival next time up.
Those runs read well in the context of this contest, and a repeat of either should be good enough for Next Edition to finally get his head back in front where it matters.
17.45: Freeze A Crowd
18.15: Next Edition (NB)
18.45: Charlie Lad
19.15: Mountain Man (NAP)
19.45: Mitre Peak
20.15: Ultimate Star