National Hunt racing is the main focus in Britain on Thursday with two meetings taking place in the afternoon and they are supported by one all-weather card in the evening.
Ffos Las kicks us off, where the ground is heavy, soft in places and Wincanton’s meeting swiftly follows with good to soft ground that should be much fairer.
Amongst our Thursday fancies is one for Paul Nicholls that should be capable of finding plenty more improvement over fences.
15:00 Ffos Las - Coconut Splash @ 15/2
Evan Williams’ Coconut Splash is somehow still a maiden over fences but he can finally open his account at Ffos Las on Thursday.
This nine-year-old has put in many solid efforts in better races than this and off much higher marks. The fact that he has fallen to a mark of 120 is particularly interesting and he should be right in the mix here.
Coconut Splash didn’t have much chance behind a now 150-rated novice chaser when third at Worcester in September and it was an improved effort at Wincanton next time, finishing third once again but managing to get considerably closer.
Despite performing well below-par at Aintree when last seen, he should be capable of bouncing back in this lower grade and a significantly improved effort is expected this time around.
It’s clear that after failing to win in 14 starts over fences, he’s low on credit and shouldn’t be afforded too many more chances, but he has never qualified for a race of this grade before and whilst it’s now or never, it could well be now.
15:45 Wincanton - Take Your Time @ 7/4
A course and distance winner last time out, Paul Nicholls’ Take Your Time is likely to continue progressing over the larger obstacles and can put in another big effort at the Somerset track this afternoon.
This gelding would probably prefer a slower surface but he has won on good to soft before and shouldn’t be too inconvenienced by the conditions here. It was an impressive performance last time out and he pulled clear on the run-in to score by a comfortable margin.
Taking the lead before the second last fence that day, the result never looked in doubt from that point on. That victory came on heavy ground and it indicates that he has significant stamina reserves.
The handicapper has responded by putting him up 8lb but he has previously won over hurdles off a 1lb higher mark and could be a good bit better over fences. It’s likely that the best is yet to come and he could be lining up in better staying handicaps before long.
20:00 Chelmsford - Wadacre Gomez @ 3/1
It can’t be too convenient for Charlie Johnston to send runners down to Chelmsford but you can certainly see why he’s doing so in the case of Wadacre Gomez.
Johnston’s four-year-old has a record of two wins and a third in three starts at the Essex track and he was a cosy winner over course and distance on his penultimate start.
His performance here in December was excellent and he made all the running, whilst never looking like being caught. Currently on a mark which is just 3lb higher than his rating that day, a repeat performance could be on the agenda.
He was too bad to be true at Newcastle last time out and the handicapper has subsequently eased his mark by 1lb.
The drop in grade combined with the return to his favourite track can facilitate a third course and distance victory, and he can make his trainer’s trip down from Yorkshire a successful one.
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