By Chris Dixon
Both of today’s meetings in Britain take place over the jumps and it’s a tricky time of year for punters with so many horses returning from summer breaks and we’re left guessing at their likely fitness levels.
As a rule I take on the horses that have been running in the summer jumps races as they’ve either gone up the weights for winning what are comparatively weak events, or have been failing to win races in that less competitive environment.
So I focus on the horses that look to have more depth to their form and have ideally run well when fresh in the past or represent a stable that are showing signs of having their horses to hand early.
In that sense both Simply Ned and Double W’s are interesting in the feature event of the afternoon the Kelso 4.20.
Malcolm Jefferson has already shown his string are well forward with a pair of reappearance winners giving the yard a double at Perth last week while Simply Ned’s record in this race reads 112, on each occasion making his return from a break, and he’s almost certain to be fine-tuned this afternoon.
I’m finding it hard to split the pair and I may end up backing both against the field but for now I’m siding with the horse at the bigger price in Simply Ned.
He’s now 3lb lower than when just touched off by another of today’s rivals, Theflyingportrait, in the corresponding event last year and there’s not much wrong with the form of his runs immediately after that defeat (split Fox Norton and Special Tiara at Cheltenham before a third behind Douvan and Sizing John at Leopardstown).
He needs to bounce back from a couple of below-par runs in the spring but if he does - and is able to reproduce his previous early season efforts - he will be going close today in a race that should be run to suit.
The following handicap hurdle at 4.50 is a much lower grade affair and the drop into this level of competition might spark a revival in Castletown.
He ran to what appears to be a decent level on several occasions in France and though he hasn’t yet hit that standard in five outings for Pauline Robson, there has been enough encouragement in his third over hurdles at Cartmel last summer and fourth over fences here when last seen in December to think he has the ability to win races off his mark of 102.
The stable had a winner earlier in the week and are capable of readying one off a break and with the usual hood replaced by blinkers and top northern-based rider Brian Hughes booked, the signs are that today could be the day he capitalises on some leniency from the handicapper.
Outside of the first two selections I was struggling to find anything I was sure represented really good value bets and my final two selections have been fairly well found in the market.
However, both horses are of real interest on account of the trainer change angle having moved to yards that do extremely well with new recruits from elsewhere. The horses in question are Picture Painter, on his first outing for Keith Dalgleish, and Audacious Plan who starts out for Dr Richard Newland.
Picture Painter (Kelso 2.05) is yet to win a race but there are a couple of pieces of form that suggest he could be fairly treated over hurdles and if he is then Dalgleish is the man to unlock his potential.
Audacious Plan (Uttoxeter 4.35) tumbled in the weights last year for a yard that struggled for much of the season but showed solid enough form on a couple of occasions to display his ability is still there and at the age of eight he is still fairly young.
He starts out for his new yard as a potentially very well handicapped horse and if they can revive him in the manner they have so many horses in recent seasons, then he’ll take the beating under conditions that suit.
Chris Dixon’s Sunday selections:
4.20 Kelso: Simply Ned at a general 9-2
4.50 Kelso: Castletown at a general 9-2