With wins in the 1965 Chase (with Royal Regatta), the Betfair “Fixed Brush” Handicap Hurdle (Kruzhlinin) and two Triumph Hurdle Trials (Defi du Seuil) already on the board this season, it’s been a good start for the Philip Hobbs yard. Things don't seem to be slowing down as we enter 2017 either, as the stable has already sent out three winners from 15 runners in January (at the time of writing). Granted, No Comment, I’m A Game Changer and Strong Pursuit all obliged at short prices, but there have also been recent placed finishes for Katy P at 14/1 and Desert Retreat at 8/1. Hobbs could have two runners at Doncaster on Monday, namely Majestic Touch in a novice hurdle and Royal Milan in a novice handicap chase. The virtues of a positive trainer change (‘Trainer Uplift’ on the Time Race Card, highlighted with a symbol) has been extolled numerous times in Timeform products in recent years, and Majestic Touch will be making his first start for the Hobbs operation after having two starts for Don Cantillon and one for Tracey Bailey. The gelding, who is owned by former amateur jockey Nick Sutton (who rode in hunter chases for both Bailey and Hobbs up until 2012/13, finishing third in the 2011 Fox Hunters’ at Aintree on the former’s Offshore Account), will also be making his hurdling debut and could be one to watch, hopefully at juicy odds. Royal Milan was brought down at Ascot on his chasing debut in November and seemed to be ridden with an eye to restoring his confidence when down the field at Newbury last time; he remains with potential over fences.
Yep, Mick Easterby is still at the top of the Flat Trainer Form Rankings, but close behind him is Tom Dascombe who has barely had a horse run poorly over the last four weeks. One horse that sums up Dascombe’s recent hot spell is Fire Diamond, who has won handicaps at three different all-weather tracks in recent months, most recently at Lingfield just after Christmas. Backing all Dascombe’s runners across November and December would have yielded a £180 profit to a £10 level stake, and it would be no surprise if Dascombe’s horses produced similar results in January. Captain Revelation has a very good record on the fibresand at Southwell, winning three times there, including when landing some tidy bets in early-December, and he could run again at the track on Tuesday. The step back up to a mile shouldn’t hold any fears as he’s already won twice over C&D. Dascombe could also run Sidewinder in a three-year-old handicap over seven furlongs on the card. Sidewinder has finished in the first four on all six of his starts, proving as good as ever when just touched off in maidens on his last two (four months apart), and he should give his running once again. Make sure you give a second look to all the trainer’s runners over the next week or so.
Up-and-coming trainer Mark Walford is clearly capable of saddling winners on the Flat, as Maifalki has proved in recent weeks (won two of his three starts on the level, at 14/1 and 16/1), but he has a notably better strike rate over jumps and four of his last five winners came under National Hunt Rules. What’s more, if you’d have backed all of Walford’s runners during the current jumps season you’d have made £410 to a £10 level stake. Walford has had plenty of runners in handicap hurdles and handicap chases since sending out his first runner in 2013/14, but he shows a profit of over £200 to a £10 level stake in each race type. Loch Linnhe was weak in the market (28/1) for her handicap debut over hurdles at Newcastle in early-December, but she turned in a much improved performance to beat her 15 rivals and a 7 lb rise may not stop her following up, with the first-time cheekpieces, forceful tactics and the return to further all contributory factors to her career-best effort. She doesn’t hold an upcoming entry but there’s no reason why she won’t run again very soon, likewise Craggaknock, who was rated as high as 92 on the level and has won both his starts over hurdles (another who has benefited from the application of cheekpieces). In fact, any Walford horse running in the coming days, especially over jumps, needs to be considered.