Richard Johnson remains 4/5 favourite with BetVictor for the Jump Jockey’s title 2018/19 ahead of this evening’s Stratford card despite trailing Harry Skelton (5/4 with BetVictor) by more than 20 winners. As stated previously I hope and expect to see a real fight for the title this season – not before time.
Both jockeys are in action tonight and Hatcher is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time for the Skelton’s in the opener having not looked too resolute when second over C&D here last month. He would have every chance if the new headgear works the oracle, but Henry Smith (6.30) is fitted with a tongue-tie for his second start over timber having finished second to a Skelton hotpot at Bangor on debut.
The selection won three times on that flat over 12f and is entitled to come on for his initial experience over hurdles. He might need a stiffer test going forward, but I hope Sam Twiston-Davies will ride him prominently and the hope is that he can improve past Hatcher.
Born For War (7.00) failed to complete in two of his three Irish point-to-points, but he has the scope to jump a fence and finished runner up to a subsequent winner (Notnow Seamus) at Southwell over timber last month having his first start on good ground. Skelton’s Café Au Lait was behind on that occasion and reopposes this evening on 4lbs worse terms. The latter won over fences on his previous start at Bangor but is 10lbs higher tonight.
Vosne Romanee (7.30) gives weight to his four rivals in the £15,000 handicap chase but I feel he can make all for the same Dr Newland/Twiston-Davies combination as with Henry Smith. Johnson rides recent Fontwell winner Royal Plazza and the hope is that the latter – who made all last time – and the selection do not cut each-others’ throats. If they do Pearls Legend might be the one to pick up the pieces.
At Hamilton this afternoon Alabanza (2.45) looks a progressive sort and he finished well when third on soft ground on his handicap debut here last month. Connor Beasley takes over from an apprentice in the saddle and the hope is that he is better away from the gates than he was last time when an unconsidered 25/1 shot.
There is a £30,000 handicap over a mile and Balestra (3.45) had to cover plenty of ground when runner up at Ayr last time and did well in the circumstances to finish second off a mark just 1lb lower. Tim Easterby’s 4-y-old has only had eight career starts and looks open to further improvement.
Northern Sky (4.15) gave the outside up to no one from a wide draw when third at Ayr last time but I hope he can land the 1m 5f handicap for Irish raider Adrian Keatley – I am convinced he is better than he showed last time. Irish apprentice Danny Sheehy takes off a valuable 5lbs.
At Chepstow this evening Final Rock (8.15) looks sure to appreciate the step up to 10f for the first time having run on well when runner up at Brighton over a mile just six days ago. Sir Mark Prescott has his string in good form and Luke Morris keeps the ride.
Johnny Murtagh brings Circling Moon (9.15) over from Ireland and this inmate has won two of three starts for the yard including over 1m 7f from a 5lbs lower mark on his penultimate start. He is likely to be tough to beat against a number of, seemingly, exposed rivals.
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