Friday fancies

Selections:

5.25 Downpatrick – Presentingprincess 7/2

5.45 Cork – Jerandme 5/4 (NAP)

6.30 Ffos Las – Fifty Shades 11/8

8.05 Ffos Las – Voodoo Doll 7/1ew

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Stick with Sharjah for Grimes glory

In the end there’s no Arctic Fire in the lineup for the Grade 3 Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary but Wicklow Brave does go for the same owners and goes into the two mile contest as a short priced favourite. However, he’s too short for my liking, having to give four pounds and upwards to all of his rivals, as well as being a horse that you never really know what you’re going to get on any given day.

Instead I like the chances of Willie Mullins’ other contender – Sharjah. The five-year-old was one of the champion trainer’s leading novice hurdlers last season, winning twice and finishing eighth in the Supreme. He also surely would have claimed Grade 1 glory at Leopardstown in December but for falling at the last when seemingly having the race at his mercy. He’s a horse that Mullins has stressed needs good ground to be seen at his best and that’s what he gets here. He receives seven pounds from Wicklow Brave and at 15/2 looks a cracking each way poke, with a big chance of coming home in front.

Selection:

8.00 Tipperary – Sharjah 15/2ew

Tuesday Stratford selections

Rated 100 on the Flat with Ralph Beckett, Carntop was thrown in at the deep end for his hurdles bow with Jamie Snowden in February, finishing ninth in the Dovecoat. Not seen since, he returns in much calmer waters, and can get his first win over timber at the second attempt at Stratford. Having also had wind surgery since his last outing, the five-year-old won’t have things all his own way with Hatcher, Henry Smith and Equus Pandora all worthy opponents if he isn’t on his A-game, but I fancy him to just have a bit too much class.

Later on the card it may also be worth having a small each-way play on Exitas now that Phil Middleton’s charge reverts back to fences. Three runs over the last couple of months over hurdles haven’t shown the son of Exit To Nowhere in the best light, however if you look at his form over the bigger obstacles last term performances like a seven-length win in listed company against the likes of Quite By Chance, Marracudja and Theinval would surely be good enough here if he can return to anything like that form. Running off a mark three pounds lower than when second to Divine Spear at Ascot in December, Tommie O’Brien takes off another five pounds and for me his price of 12/1 is based on his recent hurdles exploits rather than his chase form.

Selections:

6.30 – Carntop 2/1 (NAP)

8.30 – Exitas 12/1ew

Sunday selections – Uttoxeter & Cartmel

Click here to read my thoughts on the day’s jumping highlight, the listed Summer Cup, while below are my selections for both jumps meetings at Uttoxeter and Cartmel…

1.30 Uttoxeter – Celestial Path 15/8

2.45 Cartmel – Uptown Funk 9/1ew

3.10 Uttoxeter – Ocean Jive 3/1 (NAP)

3.20 Cartmel – Running Wolf 7/1ew

3.45 Uttoxeter – Quite by Chance 9/2ew

4.20 Uttoxeter – Ballyalton 11/1ew

4.30 Cartmel – Shantou Village 11/2ew

Uttoxeter Summer Cup

World Cup fever continues to grip the nation and while Spain battle with Russia, Pele is also in action on Sunday afternoon, the Romford Pele that is, one of the leading contenders in the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter.

Originally run in 2000 as a stamina-sapping four-mile gruel under the guise of the Summer National, this listed contest was rebranded as the Summer Cup in 2012 and reduced to its current distance of 3m 2f. One of the highlights of the summer jumps season, Martin Pipe enjoyed back to back success in the race in its early years, while Colin Tizzard, Harry Fry and Rebecca Curtis are among recent trainers to taste victory, the latter with aforementioned old favourite The Romford Pele in 2014.

Now under the charge of Tom George, the 11-year-old was one of the beneficiaries of the popular veterans chases last season, winning two races in that series on his only outings of the campaign, in the first of which beating a decent field at Aintree last October. His penalty for those victories is a rating of 149, his highest mark in getting on for three years, leaving him having to shoulder joint top weight in his bid for a second Summer Cup.

Older horses do have a good recent record in this race however, with 10-year-old Shuil Royale and nine-year-old Tempestatefloresco winning two of the last three renewals. Another trying to land a blow for the old stagers is Gas Line Boy, who was fourth two years ago and runs for the first time since a fine seventh place finish in the Grand National. The ground might just prove a bit lively for Ian Williams’ 12-year-old however.

Instead, I like the chances of the trainer’s other shot at success, the wonderfully consistent Ballyalton. A year younger than his stablemate, the mount of Tom O’Brien is due his moment in the sun after a season last term which saw him finish fourth at Cheltenham in three of the most competitive handicaps of the campaign – the BetVictor Gold Cup, the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup and the Brown Advisory Plate at the Festival. Those were then followed by a fifth place in the Topham at Aintree.

All ran on ground softer than ideal, he tuned up for his latest assignment with a run over hurdles at Southwell three weeks’ ago, an outing that should have put him spot on for his return to fencing. Running off the same mark he went off in a much more competitive race at Cheltenham in March, Ballyalton will also have good memories of Uttoxeter, having won on his only previous visit back in 2013.

The step up in trip is a slight concern but he was an easy winner of his point over three miles on heavy way back at the start of his career and probably would have got much closer in that hurdles run over just shy of three miles last time out with a more patient ride. I’d be sure he will get that ride here and if he does he can give owners that include Lee Westwood plenty to cheer about at odds of 10/1, a great each-way value punt with some firms paying five places in you shop around.

Selection:

Sunday, 4.20 Uttoxeter – Ballyalton 10/1ew