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Hat-trick on the cards for Dan Skelton's Hatcher

Hatcher canters home to win the Racing Welfare Racing Staff Week Maiden Hurdle at Stratford last month. Photo: David Pratt
Hatcher canters home to win the Racing Welfare Racing Staff Week Maiden Hurdle at Stratford last month. Photo: David Pratt

ALCESTER-based Dan Skelton continues to set the pace in this season’s trainers’ championship race and, after a rare day with no runners at his local course at the last meeting, should be back in the winner’s enclosure at Stratford on Thursday afternoon, writes David Hucker.

The recent rain has softened the going on racecourses up and down the country and Skelton pulled out all four of his runners who need good ground at Newton Abbot on Monday.

After a couple of drier days, the track at Stratford should be in near-perfect condition and, with 68 declared runners, there will be plenty of competitive action.

Skelton had two entries in the opening Natural Flake Novices’ Hurdle over two and a quarter miles, due off at 1.30pm, and has gone for dual course winner Hatcher, who should have no problem in bringing up his hat-trick at the expense of Baby Ted.

Dove Mountain will be a horse that Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy remembers for the rest of his life, having provided him with his first winner at Brighton last year. He was entered in an amateur riders’ race at Perth on Tuesday, but Murphy has opted for the Priority SMS Selling Hurdle here instead.

Stable companion Royal Plaza was not disgraced when going down to Vosne Romanee over fences here on his last start, making the running until approaching the final fence and, with the winner scoring again from a handicap mark of 140, the form looks good enough to land this and make it a 1-2 for Murphy.

Birch Hill carried 11-12 to victory here last month and, although weighted 2lb higher, can’t be ruled out of the Watch More with Racing UK Extra Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Skelton had three entries in the feature £15,000 Watch Racing UK On Sky 426 Handicap Hurdle and runs two with stable jockey Harry Skelton on Parthenius, who finished second to Cause Toujours at Aintree last time out.

The third horse that day was Melody Of Scotland, who let the form down when disappointing on her next run here, and it may pay to have an each-way bet on Regulation who chased home Red Tornado, albeit at a respectable distance, over the course last time.

Half of the 22 entries in the Low 6 Handicap Chase have stood their ground and it could be worth taking a chance with Massini’s Lady, who will be having her first run for the Skelton stable, having previously been trained by Nick Alexander. She won just one race for her former yard, but wouldn’t be the first horse to show improved form after transferring to the Skelton academy.

Bennachie, who was chasing a hat-trick when unseating David Noonan at the fourth fence at Hexham in May, had a choice of entries and trainer Tim Vaughan has opted for the Racing UK Extra on racinguk.com Handicap Chase.

He will meet Drumhart, who looked like collecting when leading into the home straight over the course and distance last month, but found nothing extra after a clumsy jump at the last, finishing third to What A Laugh and King Spirit.

There is another good-sized field in the concluding All New racinguk.com Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and Simply Lucky could round off a good day for the Skelton team.

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