David Clough previews Monday’s meetings in the UK and Ireland with the best bet running on Southwell’s jumps card.
First Class Return can deliver victory in the Follow Jigsaw Sports Branding On Twitter Handicap Chase at Southwell.
It is hardly an encouraging statistic at first glance that Olly Murphy’s eight-year-old has yet to locate the winning track, as a 25-race maiden.
But only four of those efforts have been for current connections since his arrival from Ireland four months ago.
In that time, First Class Return has begun to find an encouraging level of form for this grade as runner-up on his last two runs over hurdles.
He is sent up in trip here to three miles for only the third time in his career, and this is his first chase in Britain – having had plenty of experience as a novice in Ireland.
He is also having his second start following a wind operation, and Harry Skelton rides him for the first time.
The market suggested he was expected to build on his Wincanton second at Ayr last time – when he again performed with credit but perhaps ran into an improving horse.
There are several promising indications that Murphy has found the right race for First Class Return here.
Skelton makes the trip up across the midlands from Warwickshire to ride his brother Dan’s Cadzand too, in the Thank You NHS Novices’ Hurdle.
The six-year-old could not deliver when well-touted for last month’s hugely-competitive Betfair Hurdle at Newbury.
But this switch back to novice company, and first move up to two and a half miles under rules for the Charlton Horethorne point-to-point winner, presents an obvious opportunity for him to record a third victory in five starts this season.
There is an eye-catching jockey booking at Kelso, where champion Brian Hughes is riding Northern Irish challenger Bellaney Gem in the Belhaven Best Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.
Stuart Crawford’s Antrim string are familiar travellers to Scotland – and although Bellaney Gem has yet to win in her 10 starts under rules, and two preceding point-to-points, she has fared well enough in Ireland to suggest she could be up to a task like this.
Hughes’ presence points to the yard’s intent, and this minor move up in trip on an easy track and better ground all add up to winning ingredients.
Storm Nelson, conqueror of First Class Return at Ayr, may be able to follow up in the Congratulations The Shunter bet365 Morebattle Bonus Handicap Hurdle.
Sandy Thomson’s lightly-raced eight-year-old won over an extended three miles, also at Ayr, back in October 2018 – so this even longer trip ought to suit.
It is to his credit that, on his return from more than a year off this month, he scored by almost 10 lengths on stable debut over two and half miles.
Storm Nelson is up 11lb for that success, but still gets in on a handy weight here.
Few 10-race maidens achieve a rating as high as Faustinovick’s 125.
But Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old has been second six times, rarely run a bad race and chased home some notably useful opponents – especially early in his career.
He has continued to perform with credit but little reward this season, even when his stable was badly out of sorts.
That has extended to a current sequence of four successive runner-up spots since early December – but off top weight in a manageable grade, Plumpton’s Get Daily Tips On attheraces.com Handicap Chase could finally be Faustinovick’s moment to shine.
KELSO: 2.10 Storm Nelson, 2.40 Bellaney Gem, 3.10 Word Has It, 3.40 Golan Cloud, 4.10 Schiehallion Munro, 4.40 Chanting Hill, 5.10 Skyhill.
NAVAN: 1.55 Now Where Or When, 2.25 Run For Pat, 2.55 Coventry, 3.25 Cathmart Desjy, 4.00 Jawbox, 4.30 Fayetta, 5.00 Tech Talk.
PLUMPTON: 1.45 Robin Des Smoke, 2.18 Faustinovick, 2.48 Albert Hucklebuck, 3.18 Eaglehill, 3.50 Here’s Bingo, 4.20 Darkest Day.
SOUTHWELL: 12.30 FIRST CLASS RETURN (NAP), 1.00 Commis D’Office, 1.30 Amazing Presence, 2.03 Drumochter, 2.33 Cadzand, 3.03 Une De La Seniere, 3.33 Robsam.
DOUBLE: Bellaney Gem and First Class Return.