Sunday 18 February 2018

Bench Warrent courts favour

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Synchronised's presence in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter this afternoon means that nine of the 18 runners will race from out of the handicap in the feature event.

Jim Culloty saddles the only Irish contender Noble Concorde, which is 7lbs out of the handicap proper, but Ryan McMahon's 5lb claim will offset most of this in the 4m 1f contest.

A winner on heavy ground at Fairyhouse in 2010, he was a fair second to Some Target at Punchestown in January over 3m 4f, the furthest he has ever raced.

On that basis, Noble Concorde could have an each-way chance today, but he turned in a pretty uninspirational effort at Naas two weeks ago, so it's hard to get too excited about his chance now.


Synchronised, which made heavy weather of landing this 12 months ago, is 9lbs higher than when winning the Welsh National in January.

Clearly, he stays relentlessly and, when you factor in the Sadler's Wells gelding's touch of class, he could take all the beating again today.

However, this type of dour handicap is typically won by something further down the weights -- Synchronised was the first to carry more than 10st 9lb to victory in eight years.

Synchronised's stablemate Alfie Sherrin is one that has a lot going for it on its handicap debut, but Bench Warrent is just preferred on the basis that Alfie Sherrin might need a bit more experience for something as gruelling as this.

A winner on his fencing debut in November 2009, Bench Warrent has since run eight times. He has fallen twice, including in the Welsh National, but has never been out of the first three on the other six outings. In heavy going at Exeter in February, the eight-year-old finished third behind Bakbensher and Definity, which ran well to be fifth at Cheltenham on Wednesday. The fourth and fifth home both won easily next time.

Bench Warrent was subsequently beaten just a length and a quarter over 3m 5f in heavy ground at Warwick. While he is effectively racing off a 4lb-higher mark now because he is out of the handicap, the useful Peter Toole takes three off, so he won't need to find much more improvement to get his head in front.

In the 2m 6f handicap hurdle, Ruby Walsh, who rides Tricky Trickster in the Midlands National, can score on Red Harbour for Paul Nicholls.

A narrow winner of the novices' handicap final at Sandown 12 months ago, the Old Vic seven-year-old has disappointed this term.

On his reappearance at Haydock in November he was beaten a long way behind Grands Crus, before only managing sixth at Wincanton in January. There may have been more merit in that latter result than first appeared the case, though, as the form has held up well, with the winner and the third since scoring.

Red Harbour has been dropped 2lbs for his efforts, and is down three altogether for his two latest defeats. Having been amateur-ridden on both occasions, he should be a more potent proposition under Walsh now.


Also at Uttoxeter, Mrs Fawlty appeals under Jason Maguire in the 2m 5f handicap chase. On just her third start over fences, she can build on a fair second in testing conditions at Towcester last time.

At home, Stonemaster will be hard to beat in the conditions hurdle at Cork tomorrow. Dessie Hughes' six-year-old has been consistent this season, beaten only a couple of lengths when placed in good races on his first four starts.

He finally got his head in front at Leopardstown three weeks ago, and he faces four of the horses he accounted for then on much better terms at tomorrow's weights. While Psycho would have given him a race last time but for falling two-out, Stonemaster is the more progressive type, and the extra couple of furlongs tomorrow will also suit.

Best bet: Stonemaster

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