Tip of the Day: Ready for Battle!
Our man Matt Brocklebank hopes to see Conor Shoemark's fitness tested to the hilt up the Towcester hill this afternoon.
Conor Shoemark: A muddy good young jockey
Provided Conor Shoemark has regained his strength having needed all of it and more to haul Walk On Al over the line at Ffos Las on Monday (he's not been in action since so should be fine all things considered), it could be worth chancing chasing debutant Battle Dust at Towcester.
Having to concede weight to most of the field on his first foray over fences looks a little harsh on the face of it, but the fact is it's not the strongest of races by any stretch and trainer Kim Bailey's decision to send him straight down the handicap route should be taken as a reasonable pointer in itself.
The seven-year-old's most recent form figures are far from inspiring as he was fourth of five in a novice hurdle when last seen in March and beaten 56 lengths in a Warwick handicap before that in January.
However, it's his early-season efforts that catch the eye and look far more relevant when today's race is considered as he clearly goes well when fresh and also likes getting his toe into the ground.
It's good to soft, soft in places this afternoon which may not quite be testing enough but two and three-quarter miles around Towcester is no speed test and at prices around 14/1 I'm willing to chance he gets away with it.
The former point-to-point winner beat subsequent scorer Ballywilliam at Chepstow 12 months ago and, having gone down by just half a length at Warwick on his handicap hurdling debut afterwards, looks a fair bet off the same mark of 120 today.
That Warwick outing was the last time he was partnered by Shoemark, who obviously gets on well with the horse. He's not a straightforward ride by the looks of things and needs cajoling along at times but slogs to the line don't seem to be a problem for Shoemark, judged upon the evidence of the week so far.
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