Tip Of The Day: Money to pay out?
It's the first hunter chase of 2017 at Taunton, but our man Will Hayler prefers the look of a strong-staying mare at Hereford.
Kielan Woods: Rides our selection Money Maid.
Nicky Henderson fears the loss of Kempton could be the first nail in the coffin of jumps racing. Time will tell, but I wonder for how much longer hunter chases will be known as hunter chases, before they are rebranded as 'countryside chases' or 'trail chases', given the way fashion has steadily moved against hunting (and anything else perceived, correctly or incorrectly, as being elitist) over recent years.
Taunton today plays host to the first of 98 hunter chases programmed for 2017 and Mon Parrain makes obvious appeal given his smart form over many years for Paul Nicholls, although his jockey David Maxwell – who also now owns Mon Parrain – falls very firmly into the category of enthusiastic amateur, rather than teenage talent trying to make their way up the racing ladder by getting experience in this sphere.
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These contests are never ones I tend to want to bet on (other than when I'm frantically chasing on the last day of the Cheltenham Festival, of course) so I'll restrict myself to a mention of a former member of the point-to-point fraternity who will surely be breaking her duck under Rules soon and who must go close at Hereford today.
Money Maid has moved to the care of Graeme McPherson this season and emerged with a stack of credit when second to Two Smokin Barrels at Wetherby last month – pushing that smart mare all the way to the line in a cracking duel up the straight, during which they pulled 21 lengths clear of their rivals.
Her mark has been left unchanged at 100 meaning she comes in at the ceiling rating of today's 0-100 Kidwells Law Handicap Chase (3.20) and that looks generous as I reckon Two Smokin Barrels is a very smart performer – in her previous Wetherby success, she'd beaten I Just Know who hosed up at Doncaster on Monday and the third and fourth-placed horses have also franked the form.
I wouldn't get too carried away about the move up in trip – Hereford is such a tight track that three miles and a furlong here really isn't much tougher than three miles anywhere else, but in any case Money Maid has shaped like a particularly thorough stayer to this point.
I've got some niggling concerns. She didn't look totally tractable around Towcester over hurdles three starts ago and is still to win a race under Rules. But I can't get over the impression she made as a guaranteed future winner at Wetherby last time and the sympathetic treatment of the handicapper afterwards. She faces a big field in opposition today, but it's nearly impossible to make a clear case for most of them – veteran Wellforth looks among those who could be considered a danger on his best form and at a massive price, I might consider a stake-saver on him.
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