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Skelton set to strike again with Mister Universum

Mister Universum (5) returns to action at Stratford following wind surgery. Photo: David Pratt
Mister Universum (5) returns to action at Stratford following wind surgery. Photo: David Pratt

HARRY Skelton, who has seen his lead in the jockeys’ championship shrink to 12 as Richard Johnson has hit a rich vein of form, could strike with Mister Universum, trained by his brother Dan, in the feature Class 2 DB Heating Worcester Bosch Handicap Hurdle at Stratford on Saturday, writes David Hucker.

Boosted by the form of horses sent from Ireland by leading trainer Gordon Elliott, Johnson has been operating at a 31 per cent strike rate over the last two weeks, although Skelton still leads by 81-69.

A winner at Warwick in May, Mister Universum returns to action after wind surgery and may have most to fear from bottom-weight Cool Sky, a winner of 12 races in all, and not disgraced when fourth on the flat behind Lil Rockerfeller at Goodwood last time.

Eight line up for the opening City Sign & Graphics Novices' Hurdle over an extended two mile trip, with dual winner Competition looking the one the rest have to beat.

He was denied a hat-trick when beaten three-quarters of a length by West Drive at Fontwell Park, but should get back on the winning trail here.

Owners Value Racing Club were on the mark at last Tuesday’s meeting with Henry Smith, also trained by Dr Richard Newland and, with those who have run showing little form, the danger could be debutant Panko, who has won twice on the flat for Edgecote trainer Alex Hales, the most recent success coming over one and a half miles at Leicester in June.

There is a fascinating clash in the Grundon Waste Management Novices' Chase as Golden Birthday and El Terremoto lock horns again.

Last time, chasing debutant Golden Birthday, who was rated 144 over hurdles, had too much speed for his opponent but, with a 6lb turn-round in the weights, El Terremoto could get closer this time.

Golden Birthday looks a horse with a future and, with Kieron Edgar again taking 3lb off his weight, should come out on top with Flashing Glance, a course winner over hurdles, fancied to chase him home.

Wilmcote trainer Olly Murphy, who has sent out 25 winners so far this season, saddles both top and bottom weights in the Kieran O’Neill 75 Birthday Conditional Jockeys' Selling Handicap Hurdle over two and a quarter miles.

Mizen Master, owned by his father Aiden, won a claiming race at Worcester and should be up to running well here, despite being allotted 11-12, but Ayelya, who runs from 3lb out of the handicap, will have to step up on her last race performance at Newton Abbot.

Exitas, three times a winner over fences, can follow up his good run over the course last month and land the Class 3 George Pragnell Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

Taken down to the start early, Exitas set a steady pace when runner-up to Chieftain’s Choice over hurdles, before setting a much stronger gallop and running out of steam when third at Southwell a week later.

Back over fences now and looking for his first win for ten months, Exitas could have most to fear from Newton Abbot winner Call Me Vic, whose defeat of Guerrilla Tactics looks to be even smarter form after his subsequent hurdles win over the course.

Easy Street lived up to his name when winning convincingly at Warwick in May, but has not looked like following up in three starts since and may be just a bit too high in the weights still.

Top-weight Ink Master goes for his fourth win in a row in the Keogh & Hows Handicap Chase and could be another winner at the course for trainer Donald McCain and jockey Brian Hughes, before Itchy Feet has a chance to step up on his debut run at Fontwell Park in April and take the concluding Andy Townsend Memorial Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race for Olly Murphy and jockey Gavin Sheehan.

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