The ground is starting to dry out, but there is rain forecast, so it will still be testing on Tuesday at Wetherby, where at the time of writing it is described as soft, heavy in places.
Our first runner will be Black Kettle at 2.15.pm, in the 0-110 handicap chase, over one mile and seven furlongs. Black Kettle made his seasonal debut at Hexham in October of last year, when pulling up in his first race in seven months. This race will no doubt bring him closer to full fitness, as he races from 4lb out of the weights, with Alain Cawley taking the ride. We are doubly represented in the two miles 0-110 handicap hurdle at 2.45.pm. Wishful Thinking is very lightly raced, having run in a bumper, and four hurdles races, making no show before arriving at Oakwood Stables last autumn.He made his debut for us at Newcastle in November, off a harsh looking mark of 98, when pulling up, he has now had time to settle in, and will race for only the seventh time, from a reduced mark of 92, with Joe Colliver retaining the ride.
We also run Ex S'Elance in the same event. He was a winner last time out at Catterick 18 days ago for Aiden Macdonald, who gave the horse a confident ride, and made full use of his 10lb claim.Ex S'Elance will have to race off a 5lb higher mark this time, as he drops down in trip to two miles, with his regular jockey Alain Cawley back in the saddle.
I was asked to pick three horses to follow at the start of the season and Grange Ranger who runs at 3.20.pm, was one of them. I based my view on his excellent stable debut for us at Catterick last February when he finished second to the in form Ask Paddy, but more crucially because there was a gaping 33 lengths back to the third horse that day, I also thought the handicapper had been fair in only raising him by 6lb. He was off the track for nine months, before returning at Wetherby last October, where he once again finished runner up, but his last two runs, both also at Wetherby in December, and January, have both been disappointing, seeing him finish fifth, and then pulling up last time.He has now eased back to a mark of 112, and will also step down in trip to two miles and five furlongs, with Alain Cawley retaining the ride at 3.20.pm.
There are some nice races open for mares only, and hopefully Desaray Girl can take advantage of one of them, when she runs in the 3.55.pm, the 0-135 handicap hurdle over two miles and five furlongs. Desaray Girl has now ran twice since minor wind surgery, and put up an excellent effort to finish fourth in a Listed event at Sandown in January, she has since had a spin in a jumpers bumper at Newcastle, where she ran well to finish fourth again. Her current mark of 123 looks very tempting, and the ground will not be a problem.She steps up in trip to two miles and five furlongs, but she should stay, with regular jockey Joe Colliver taking the ride.
You can tell that spring is on the way, with the last race not being run until 5.0.pm. It is a bumper and we have two runners in the race. Wisteriarose who will be partnered by Sean Quinlan has raced on one occasion to date, when finishing down the field at Musselburgh in November. She was too keen that day,and predictably weakened from over three out. She has a lot to live up to, as three of her half brothers have achieved above average form, particularly the Class 2 winning, and 163 Racing Post Rated Hell's Kitchen.
We also run the four year old filly Shighness, who made a satisfactory start to her career in a bumper on the all weather at Newcastle last month. Although she finished ninth, she was only beaten by nine and three quarter lengths, but she will find conditions very different this time, as she continues her education, Joe Coliver takes the ride.
To keep up to date with all the latest happenings at Oakwood Stables, and Sharp Hill, click on 'NEWS' at www.mickyhammondracing.
Good luck to the connections, Tasker-Brown & Partners, D H Lees & Sons Limited, The Fifty Fifty Partnership, Oakwood Rainbow, Resdev, Mrs Jane Newett, and Keep The Faith Partnership.