The going at Newcastle at the time of writing is good to soft, soft in places, and it is pleasing to see the three feature races all carrying a total prize fund in excess of £16,000 each.
First up at 1.23.pm, is Grange Ranger in the 0-130 handicap chase over two miles and seven furlongs with Emma Smith-Chaston who has finished runner up on him twice back in the saddle. Grange Ranger is now down to the same mark of 112 as he was when winning at Wetherby last February, he has yet to hit top form this season in two starts, but he did win last year after a couple of below par efforts.
The ex Irish Dis Donc showed above average ability when winning two bumpers and a hurdle race, and being placed four times over fences, earning a best rating of 128 (Irish) when in the care of the Noel Meade yard. He was well beaten on his stable, and British debut at Haydock three weeks ago, on what was his first start in seven months. That was a good quality race , and so is this as he meets all three of his opponents that day again this time, but now on better terms. The race is a Limited Handicap Chase over two miles with Alain Cawley on board for the first time.
Grande Du Nord is next up at 2.33.pm, in novice hurdle over two and a half miles where Billy Garritty retains the ride. Grand Du Noit who won a bumper at Hexham in April of last year continues to progress with his hurdling career. He was sixth at Wetherby in November on his hurdles debut, and improved on that when finishing second to the very classy Hillcrest, who has gone on to win at Cheltenham since. Grand Du Nord once again faces good opposition, and will receive his first handicap mark after this.
Our final two runners go head to head at 3.08.pm, in the 0-100 handicap chase over two and a half miles. Bandit D'Ainay who will have Jack Hogan in the saddle for the first time was a winner four times over fences when trained in France, but in two starts at Sedgefield since joining us he is yet to show anything close to his best form. Whether at the age of 11 time is catching up with him we will have to wait and see, but the handicapper has now dropped him 9lb for those two runs.
Knocknamona also goes to post for the 3.08.pm, with his regular jockey Alain Cawley retaining the ride. For Knocknamona the ground can never be soft enough, with all of his seven previous wins coming when either soft or heavy have appeared in the going description. He has yet to hit his stride in two starts this season, but is now back on the same mark of 85 as he was when last winning at Bangor in December 2020.
To keep up to date with all the latest happenings at Oakwood Stables, Sharp Hill, and Curlew, click on 'NEWS' at www.mickyhammondracing.
Good luck to the connections, Oakwood Rainbow, Ursa Major And Partners, Middleham Park Racing & S Nicols, The Golden Cuckoo, and The Rat Pack Racing Club.