Latest eyecatchers: Life in Mars
Will Hayler, Ben Linfoot and Ian Ogg pick out five horses for your notebooks following the recent action in the UK and Ireland.
Mall Dini: Worth noting for handicaps over further
Aqua Dude – Evan Williams
I flagged up the seven-year-old in a similar feature following his fall at Newbury on New Year's Eve and make no excuses for including him again. This winning pointer is bred to make a better chaser than hurdler but that hasn't proved to be the case so far, resulting in a handicap mark that is 6lb lower than his hurdles rating. Paul Moloney said 'we think the world of him' after he won a novice hurdle last March and he is gradually getting his act together over fences. He pulled up in a race won by the smart Politologue on his first attempt over fences before being outpaced behind the progressive Waiting Patiently over the minimum. Stepped up to a more suitable trip for his handicap debut at Newbury, he was firmly in the mix when falling three from home in a competitive race. A drop in trip at a sharp track like Huntingdon never appeared that likely to suit and so it proved as he was readily outpointed behind the useful O O Seven but he ran well for a long way and has had his confidence restored and picked up a little more experience. Hopefully he can put that to good use granted a more suitable test in the near future. (IO)
Mall Dini – Pat Kelly
Perhaps it was the excellent title of the race that made me tune in for the Sportinglife.com Beginners' Chase at Punchestown on Saturday, or perhaps it was my suspicion that it might be a race that would work out well. Perhaps a bit of both. It would not pay to play down the achievements of the winner, Edwulf, who has clearly had a host of problems but might yet make up into a very smart performer. He's not slow, as outpointed runner-up Bachasson wasn't far adrift of the top level over hurdles, but the one I like the most remains third-home Mall Dini. The tongue-tie he wore to victory in the Pertemps Final last season remains conspicuous by its absence, as does the decent ground I suspect will bring about improvement in the spring, but this was a fair round of jumping – some good, some satisfactory – in a contest that will bear little similarity to the decent handicap in which he will pop up at some stage back over three miles or further. (WH)
Project Mars – Nick Gifford
Nick Gifford has had a reasonable season with his bumper runners (two from seven with a further two seconds and a fourth) and this second foal out of a hurdle winner from the family of Massini's Maguire looks capable of doing his bit following an encouraging debut at Warwick. The race itself looked a fair heat beforehand with all the talk about the short-priced and well-related favourite Kaveman being a 'flying machine'. There was also a good word for Battle Of Ideas who ran an encouraging fourth, while Daryl Jacob rode a winner on his only ride at Wetherby before heading south for one ride aboard Paisley Park who was backed from an overnight 16/1 into 6/1 and only narrowly failed to collect, finishing second. In light of all that, it was no surprise that Project Mars proved easy to back but he stayed on encouragingly from the rear of the field to make late headway on the testing surface to finish clear of the 'also-rans' with the evidently-green Kaveman 16 lengths adrift. He's not the scopiest individual but is entitled to improve for both the run and experience and should be a factor in a weaker race next time. (IO)
Rigadin De Beauchene – Venetia Wiiliams
It may not pay to keep old Rigadin in your notebook for long, but this spritely 12-year-old is worth keeping an eye on in the short term. He jumped with a visually-youthful zest on the front end in the Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday, eventually fading into sixth after being headed two out. And that was all after going off too hard and getting loose beforehand. The handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds to 127 and that number is his last winning mark. His last win came at Haydock in heavy ground and with the Grand National trial coming up at that track over three-and-a-half miles next month he's worth noting for that particular race. It's a contest he knows well having run in it for each of the last four seasons and he's won it and finished second in it off 131, 4lb higher than he's now rated. He showed enough at the weekend to suggest the old ability remains and back at his favourite track in what will likely be ideal conditions it wouldn't be too much of a surprise if he were able to roll back the years. (BL)
Fountains Windfall – Anthony Honeyball
Having backed Fountains Windfall to win the Lanzarote on Saturday my initial reaction to his seventh-place finish was one of disappointment, but I do think he's worth monitoring for the rest of the season on the back of what was, on reflection, a promising run. It was his first go for eight months and you could tell, as he ran fresh and keen on the outside but he was still in there travelling well as the race developed rounding the home turn. From there on in he couldn't mount a challenge, but being beaten 13 lengths considering his freshness probably wasn't a bad effort and there's every chance this run will bring him on. This was a strong handicap, run at a sound gallop, and I'm sure he'd go well in a similar race, but there will be opportunities to drop him in grade off his rating. A slight drop in trip might not be a bad idea either on this evidence, though he is bred for the Lanzarote trip and beyond. The key is getting him to relax and with this run under his belt he could well do that next time, whatever the distance. (BL)
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