Jumping into the penultimate meeting of the season at Stratford
TOMORROW, Saturday, sees the penultimate meeting of the 2021 jumps season at Stratford with a seven-race card that gets under way at 1.45pm, writes David Hucker.
Although the action at Stratford is nearing the end for the year, elsewhere courses are gearing up for the winter with Chepstow at the weekend giving a flavour of what is to come.
Stratford is competing with Ffos Las and Market Rasen on Saturday, but there was still a healthy entry across all seven races with some competitive fields.
The Jo Huxtable 50th Birthday Celebration 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle over two-and-three-quarter miles kicks off the action and champion trainer Paul Nicholls runs hurdles debutant Don Alvaro from his three entries.
Formerly with Philip Hobbs, Don Alvaro was beaten a long way on his first run for Nicholls, but can be expected to improve now he is jumping hurdles.
The betting market would give a guide as to the chances of Dan Skelton's newcomer Turnaway.
Course winner Serjeant Painter could strike again for trainer Ben Pauling in the William Hill Pick Your Places Handicap Hurdle, although is 5lbs higher than when scoring here in a novices event in August.
Ascot Day last appeared over hurdles in May, but has been busy on the flat, springing a 50-1 surprise at Epsom in July.
Ex-Irish trained Humaniste looks a cut above his rivals on official ratings in the Gary Hill Stag Do Selling Hurdle and could make a winning debut for his new trainer Max Young, with Al Kherb, runner-up to Orchard Grove in a handicap for amateur rides here in August, the likely danger.
Most valuable race of the afternoon is the fourth, the Paul Sheldon 75th Birthday Celebration Handicap Chase over two miles and five furlongs, and it may pay to go the bottom of the weights to find the winner with the in-form Romanor and Shentri, runner-up to Fat Sam at Warwick after holding every chance, two for the shortlist.
Warwick winner Crystal Gazing could strike again in the Beryl's Birthday Bash Mares' Handicap Hurdle with last year's race winner Diamond Gait and the progressive Pillar Of Steel, successful four times already this season, also coming in to the reckoning.
Next up is the Philip Smith Handicap Chase over two-and-three-quarter miles with wide-margin Uttoxeter winner Mariners Moon and dual point-to-point winner Movethechains, who would be having his first start for trainer Gary Moore, two of interest.
Although also entered earlier, Olly Murphy has declared Hey Bob for the closing Jackie Bates Female Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle which could go to Genever Dragon, who will be ridden by Abbie McCain.