Monday’s opening race at Wolverhampton is an intriguing handicap in which Alan Thomson looks at all nine runners before nominating his fancy.
Monday’s £100,000 minimum Tote placepot pool guarantee is on offer at Wolverhampton, live on Sky Sports Racing, and nine runners have been declared for the Top Odds Every Day With BetUK Handicap (4.25pm), a class five event over a mile-and-a-half on the Tapeta surface.
Hot on the heels of Saturday evening’s nine-race programme, the action continues to come thick and fast over the next two days at Dunstall Park.
Richard Fahey and Oisin Orr teamed up to land a treble two days ago but are not represented on today’s card. Mark and Charlie Johnston, alongside John Butler, boast 22 per cent strike rates at Dunstall Park this year.
Two other trainers come into today’s featured race on the back of notable November hauls. Sir Mark Prescott has had two winners and four places from 11 runners, while Craig Lidster boasts a record of two winners and two places from only eight runners.
Midrarr (stall 1)
A three-time winner for William Haggas last summer, including over course and distance, Midrarr has since joined Chris Dwyer via a spell with Brian Ellison. Midrarr was a friendless 50/1 chance when finishing last of nine at Chelmsford City 20 days ago but that was a slightly stronger contest. She has dropped to a favourable mark and Thore Hammer Hansen rides for the first time.
Percy Willis (4)
Only eighth in the race won by Lexington Knight here in October and has a good bit on his plate. Today’s rider P J McDonald partnered Jedd O’Keeffe’s gelding to victory here last winter, supplementing other all-weather successes at Southwell and Newcastle, and Percy Willis wasn’t beaten too far when running fifth to handicap snip Queen Of Ipanema 17 days ago.
Won over course and distance last August and almost snapped a long losing run when caught on the line by Clifftop Heaven over course and distance 16 days ago. That stretched his losing sequence to 14 but Sir Mark Prescott’s gelding is usually in the thick of things. Goes well for 7lb apprentice Morgan Cole and Genesius is 6lb better off with Lexington Knight on their running behind Sarsons Risk at Leicester in early August.
Nolton Cross (7)
One of two Middleham Park Racing runners and the Hugo Palmer-trained three-year-old returned from a 53-day break to chase home Fearless Bay at Southwell in late October. Nolton Cross was stepped up in class at Kempton next time but didn’t cut much ice in finishing eighth to Ziggy. He was sent off 2/1 favourite at Newcastle in September but ran much too freely in first-time blinkers, finishing last. Clifford Lee’s mount scored over a mile here in early January and is a serious contender.
Lexington Knight (2)
Richard Hannon’s gelding scored over course and distance last month but has little in hand of close-up third Genesius. A 3lb rise is fine and 7lb apprentice Alexander Viokhansky dons the number one Middleham Park cap. Lexington Knight has enjoyed a fruitful summer, making all to thump Neverbeen To Paris three lengths here in August, and has been placed at Ffos Las, Newmarket and Leicester.
Pretty Bouquet (6)
Having her first try in handicap company after running fourth to James Fanshawe’s Wandering Rocks in a Doncaster novice stakes in late July. Keith Dalgleish’s three-year-old was beaten by nine lengths on that occasion but had earlier tamed Ralph Beckett’s disappointing Rechercher at Carlisle. Remains relatively unexposed and Pretty Bouquet may be ready to bloom after returning from a four-month absence.
Bugle Major (3)
Outran his 25/1 starting price when beaten in a blanket finish by Clifftop Heaven and Genesius over course and distance 16 days ago. Formerly trained by Richard Hughes when racing off higher marks, Bugle Major has twice finished runner-up for Archie Watson, at Lingfield and Kempton in October. Remains a maiden after 20 runs in Britain but won three times in France earlier in his career. Looked a bit unlucky last time when again apprentice ridden and Luke Morris takes over the reins.
Masque Of Anarchy (5)
A three-time winner last summer, Masque Of Anarchy repeated the feat in amateur riders’ contests this July/August. Craig Lister’s gelding also posted an excellent second in a big field at Newmarket but has three lengths to find with Nolton Cross on their most recent running behind Fearless Bay at Southwell.
Chaos Control (9)
Has his first start for Stuart Edmunds following some solid efforts in Ireland. Scored twice at Dundalk as a juvenile and finished runner-up in three outings on the turf early this summer. Mollie Philips has an awkward draw to overcome in stall nine but Chaos Control is interesting on UK debut.
In the absence of any other obvious front-runner, LEXINGTON KNIGHT may get his own way up front. Hopefully, his young rider can get the fractions right from a perfect pitch in stall two.