We have eight runners at three meetings on Saturday, with three over the jumps at Newcastle in the afternoon, one at Thirsk at their first meeting of the new turf flat season, and four in the evening at Wolverhampton.
At Newcastle where the going is currently good, good to soft in places, our first representative is Shighness at 1.0.pm, in a two and a half miles novices hurdle, with Conor O'Farrell in the saddle for the first time. Shighness is now the winner of two of her seven starts to date after winning in heavy ground over hurdles at Wetherby last time, following on from her bumper win on good ground also at Wetherby, last November. She will have to improve again to take this, but progress is almost guaranteed, as she continues to grow into her large frame.
It is now just over a year, and four subsequent runs since Ilaya gave us anything to shout about, as she seems to have badly lost her way. She goes to post for the 4.0.pm, a 0-100 handicap hurdle over two miles and four furlongs, with Conor O'Farrell taking the ride. Ilaya is now down to a lifetime low mark of 94, which is very attractive when compared with the 113 she won off at this track in January 2020. This will be the first time she has raced beyond two miles and one furlong in her 21 race career.
Just Paddy's Band will make his handicap debut at 4.40.pm, in division 2 of the 0-100 handicap hurdle, with his regular jockey Conor O'Farrell retaining the ride. Just Paddy's Band was the winner of a bumper on his debut in March of last year, but his other two bumper starts in October and November didn't match up to that first run. He has since had three runs in novice hurdle company to get this this opening mark, and has had a break since the end of December. A reproduction of that bumper debut run would make this opening mark of 94 look very tasty.
We have one runner at Thirsk where the going is currently soft, and they are expecting rain and snow. Western Melody will run at 5.0.pm, in a maximum field of 20, where she is drawn bang in the middle in stall 10, with Billy Garritty replacing the injured Aiden Brookes. Western Melody has been a nice surprise so far, as this five year old mare has surpassed expectations on all of her three starts to date on the All Weather. Her opening handicap mark of 57 looks fair, but maybe seven furlongs would suit her better. The race is a 0-60 handicap over the straight six furlongs.
There is also rain and snow in the weather forecast at Wolverhampton where the going on the Tapeta is standard. We send four down to Dunstall Park, with Quoteline Direct first up at 7.0.pm, in a 0-55 handicap over the extended nine furlongs, with Franny Norton who has ridden him four times previously back in the saddle. Quoteline Direct reserves his best runs for Wolverhampton nowadays and was the winner of a classified event over this course and distance back in January. This race is just a shade better than that event, but he should once again be in the shake up.
We are doubly represented at 8.0.pm, in Division 1 of the 0-55 Amateur Jockeys handicap over 12 furlongs, where Burnage Boy will be ridden by our very own Georgia Fenwicke-Clennell who will be having her first ride under rules, and we wish her all the very best. Burnage Boy has recently been plying his trade over hurdles, with his form regressing since finishing fourth at Catterick in January. He has finished unplaced in five previous attempts on the All Weather, and remains a maiden after 32 career starts, but he has finished second four times.
Our other runner in the race is the Frankel gelding Uccello, who will be ridden by Becky Smith. Uccello is not the easiest of rides, and was his own worst enemy when tried over jumps, where he pulled too hard and didn't jump with fluency in three tries. His three starts for us on the flat wouldn't fill you with confidence either has he has once again been too keen, and on his latest start he also hung up the straight. If he could give himself a chance by settling he would surely have something to offer from his basement mark of 46.
The final runner of the day at 8.30.pm, is the 10 times winner The Resdev Way who goes to post for Division 2 of the 0-55 Amateur Jockeys handicap over 12 furlongs with Becky Smith who was in the saddle when the pair won at Lingfield back in January. The Resdev Way remains on a winning mark of 57, but the worry is the trip, as nowadays he appears to need further to bring out the best in him, that said the Lingfield race was only a furlong further than this, a fast run race would be beneficial.
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Good luck to the connections, Keep The Faith Partnership, The Golden Cuckoo, Chapman, Tennant, & Turnbull, The Rat Pack Racing Club, JFW Properties Ltd, Red & Whites, and Resdev.