With the racing world all going Cheltenham crazy let's not forget we have another big race on the horizon - The Grand National Chase, 5th April. This brilliant sporting occasion is not to be missed and a great time to consider placing those Grand National bets. Horse Trainer Directory has links with many top-notch handlers and we will forwarding a exceptional analysis come the day.
But back to today's race action.
A Maiden Fillies' Stakes over 1m 141y on standard going. Eight horses take part, one four-year-old and a string of younger counterparts. Four debutantes take on lightly raced horses from a mix of top-class trainers.
Puppet Theatre makes her first appearance at the age of four. This daughter of Pivotal, out of a winning and Group-raced mare, is a homebred. Mark Johnston's debutants can be difficult horses to assess - the classic first or last. I would be tempted to take a watching brief.
Roger Varian has followed in the footsteps of his late mentor Michael Jarvis - both supreme trainers, knowledgeable and caring in their approach. Thurayaat raced twice and two. This bay filly needed the run on debut but showed good spirit at Beverley when finishing second behind a fair horse. This daughter of Tamayuz is out of a winning and Listed-placed mare, trained by Michael Jarvis, both racing in the silks of Hamdan Al Maktoum. This bay filly has just turned three. The stable have been in good form and achieved a 32% strike rate at this course over the last five years.
Gratzie is the most experienced horse in this field with five starts, twice placed and a narrow loser on four occasions. This American-bred daughter of Three Valley's was sent off odds-on favourite when returning to action in February. On previous form you would have expected Mick Channon's horse to have won that race in style, so it was a touch disappointing. She looked a touch outpaced and this step up in distance should be to her benefit.
Her Honour has raced three times and although relatively fancied on each start the odds suggested she wasn't considered a leading hope. This daughter of Shamardal runs in the silks of Cheveley Park Stud. She was a fairly costly purchase at two for 80,000gns. Starting her career in the later part of the two-year-old season, this bay filly looks the type who wasn't pressed to win. John Gosden's charge ran a promising race when returning to action in February when competing the BetBright Maiden Fillies' Stakes. After proving a touch ring rusty, short of room, she then ran on with purpose suggesting this stiffer test will suit. Looks the type who will be primed to run a big race.
Nixyba has shown form on three starts and interesting to see David Porbert taking the ride. An official rating of 62 suggests that further improvement is needed and one or two will take preference.
Intriguing to see Ontoawinner Racing Syndicate with their debutante Heavenly River. This daughter of Story River was purchased by Karl Burke [trainer] at the yearling sales for 11,000euros. The French-raced dam showed a touch of form in her early career. Talented apprentice, Joey Hayes, takes off a valuable 5lb. It is never easy for horses making their debut against proven, solid opposition and she will need to be primed. If strongly backed, it would bring more confidence, but any weakness in the market may suggest she would be better for the run.
If Chindeni was seriously backed it would give encouragement - but probably best watched. While Navajo Dream is another to take a watching brief on her first start from Mick Appleby.
Conclusion: A tricky race in some respects. Puppet Theatre is a well-bred filly. However, Johnston debutantes can be very hit and miss. I would rather take a watching brief. Money for Heavenly River would be a sign of encouragement but any weakness would suggest she needs the run. The major contenders have valuable race experience and will be primed to run well. Gratzie needs to improve for this extra trip as that was a poor race last start. She has a chance but I'd rather stick with Thurayaat and Her Honour. Both fillies hail from leading trainers and given time to progress with racing. Slight preference goes to Thurayaat but both have sound each way claims if prices allow.