Hello jumps fans! Stop your shaking, come out of the cave, and enjoy a return to some sort of prominence for one of the summer highlights as Market Rasen comes to the aid of those who really need a fix with two competitive handicaps. The Summer Hurdle (2.15) is as competitive as ever so why not start with a horse who has been there and done it recently and the Swinton Hurdle winner Gwafa makes plenty of appeal. A really classy flat horse, Paul Webb’s five year-old has quickly made up into a very useful hurdler, winning twice in impressive fashion last season before unseating at the Grand National festival. Connections were disappointed but that allowed him to reserve his mark for the Swinton which he took be showing a good attitude to get the better of a competitive field which included the Scottish Champion Hurdle winner in third. The rise of 7lbs for that is fair enough here and he should take the beating once again today. Paul Nicholls got a boost with the news that several of Jared Sullivan’s best horses will be staying with him and his Mohabit is on a roll and to be respected following two demolition jobs on his last two starts. Nicholls has been battling Dan Skelton a lot – a situation which we are sure to see more of over the coming seasons – and the verve with which Skelton’s Red Tornado travelled when making it four from five in novice hurdles suggested that he’d enjoy the test of a big field handicap and he may be worth having onside in what is a seriously competitive event. The Skeltons have quickly made hay in big handicaps and in wins at Ludlow and Utoxxeter she suggested that he was still improving. On flat form, Hassle is well weighted and can expect to go well here although it is a fiercely contested race where the same could be said of a great deal of horses. In the Summer Plate (2.45) the field is no easier to sort out but it may be that another topweight could provide the answer. Ballynagour has his in and out days but his effort when second at Uttoexeter in the Summer Cup was as good as any in the field here and if putting that effort in again he can make a bold bid in an attempt to defy topweight. That day he ran into the Badger Ales Chase winner of last season in Drop Out Joe and the field in behind was filled with high class horses many of whom had won big field handicap chases. It’s worth remembering that Ballynagour himself is a past Cheltenham Festival winner and was nosed out of a Grade 1 less than a year ago, so the class is there for him if he wants to use and there’s no reason why he can’t take the beating having shown a good deal of that ability remains. Long House Hall, second in the Coral Cup, was one of four who contested a decent handicap chase at Uttoxeter when he looked to be in need of the extra trip having stayed on well from the rear. He may be able to pass the always prominent Germany Calling once again if he takes closer order here but he is short at 6/1 even given his current form. Thenival is very much in the same boat, having won a Grade 3 at Aintree over hurdles of an equivalent mark and with a slicker round of jumping he has a fair chance. Henryville was a disappointment last time with little in the tank when asked at Uttoxeter but all his previous form, including a comfortable defeat of Golden Doyen (admittedly much better off now) and a fourth in the Grade 1 Growise Champion Novice at Punchestown. He has to respond to that but he’d be shorter if it wasn’t for that run and he may well bounce right back from that effort. Cerrunos is one who looks interesting back down in trip on his return from a break whilst recent course and distance winner Cut The Corner. The novices hurdle (3.20) should be contested between Sir Toby, who made a fine debut when he was second on his British and jumping debut, Tahira, who looks a major player on these terms, and Jupiter Custos, who looked like he was going to be much better over hurdles on his debut. None make as much appeal as Hammersly Lake, who was second in the Betfred Racing ‘like Us On Facebook’ Handicap Hurdle (3.55) last October of a 3lbs lower mark. Kepy for this again, he looks to have a decent chance once again. Advice 2.15 Market Rasen, Gwafa, 1 pt win (11/2 general) 2.15 Market Rasen, 1 pt, Red Toronado (8/1 general) 2.45 Market Rasen, Ballynagour, 1 pt each/way (9/1 Stan James) 2.45 Market Rasen, Henryville, 1 pt each/way (9/1 general) 3.55 Market Rasen, 1 pt win Hammesly Lake, (6/1 general)
Market Rasen holds its most prestigious meeting on Saturday with the highlight being the Betfred Summer Plate. Summer Jump racing may not be to everyone’s taste but this meeting at the Lincolnshire course always attracts an enthusiastic crowd with races attracting strong competitive fields. Indeed the main event featured a future Grand National winner in 2012 when Auroras Encore finished down the field, and again in 2013 when on this occasion Pineau De Re was a well beaten 12th. Chances are that the 2015 Grand National winner is not amongst Saturday’s entrants, but the race certainly has its usual competitive look. Jonjo O’Neill has clearly decided that he’d like to win this season’s renewal, and sends four runners to post. Course form has proved a positive in previous Summer Plates, and The Nephew was a course and distance winner less than two weeks ago. (Tipped on this very website). The step up in trip appeared to suit and there’s a strong chance he’s still on a favourable handicap mark. This time though Champion jockey AP McCoy has been snapped up to ride the JP McManus owned It’s A Gimme for the Jonjo O’Neill stable. The horse was rated in the 140’s over hurdles and highly thought of, but has only run three times over fences. He struggled to win a novice chase at Worcester last time out and though clearly talented, this looks a big step up for one so inexperienced. Peter Bowen has a stunning record in this Market Rasen showpiece. He’s won the race three times in the last eight years and has a strongly fancied runner in Book’Em Danno. Six times a course winner and twice this year over course and distance, he looks set to run a huge race. If anything, the supporting event looks even more competitive. The Betfred Summer Hurdle was won last year by John Ferguson’s Sea Lord. His runners this year include Purple Bay; a beaten favourite in his last three runs, he is ridden by 7lb claimer Mikey Ennis. He’s a horse with a touch of class who could run a big race at a decent price. Alan King runs top-weight Montbazon. Good enough to run fourth in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle of 2012 his return from injury last season was a little disappointing. He’s had a couple of prep-runs on the flat prior to this and cannot be discounted. Stable companion Uriah Heep is ridden by Richard Johnson. Twice a winner at Stratford already this month he is another interesting contender. Discovery Bay is a horse I fancy at a price. Close behind Willow’s Saviour at Musselburgh last November, (he went on to win the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot) that form appears strong. Trained by Brian Ellison, I think he’ll go close. It’s certain to be a terrific day at Market Rasen. A meeting greatly appreciated by Jump racing fans. Many will be wishing away these summer months, with eyes and minds set on the autumn and the thrilling winter season that lies ahead. To see the JPFestival.com tips this weekend, sign-up as a Community Member for just £6 per month – 4 winners from last 5 Plays!