Sport Horse Racing

Friday 15 December 2017

Moon Racer to get lift-off on return to novice ranks

Jockey Barry Geraghty. Photo:PA
Jockey Barry Geraghty. Photo:PA

Johnny Ward

He ran pretty poorly at Cheltenham and the game may be up for Uxizandre but he is given one more chance in Aintree's feature of day two this afternoon, the JLT Melling Chase.

Certainly, he will lack nothing in terms of guidance in the saddle, the recently-returned Barry Geraghty having enjoyed Grade One victories yesterday on both Defi Du Seuil and Buveur D'Air for his boss JP McManus.

A superb winner of the Ryanair in 2015, Uxizandre's Cheltenham return in January was loaded with promise and it is hard to know what went so badly awry at the Festival. He was taken on around five fences into combat then by Un De Sceaux up front but that is not a sufficient excuse.

Expect Geraghty to take the bull by the horns, though Alan King's charge has a great deal to find with Ryanair runner-up Sub Lieutenant. That was an inspiring effort from the Gigginstown runner, yet it was a race in which neither Uxizandre nor the well-fancied Empire Of Dirt fired.

Moon Racer, pulled up when things went wrong in what always seemed an avaricious Champion Hurdle assault, is in calmer territory in the Crabbie's Top Novices' Hurdle. River Wylde is narrowly preferred to him in the overnight betting, having run a blinder when third in the Supreme behind Labaik, but surely Moon Racer would have been capable of at least that performance and he hardly had a difficult race against the seniors.

One harder to assess is Mount Mews, which has been short prices in novice heats and seemingly ran an exceptional race at Kelso recently, winning by 49 lengths. That was on heavy ground. This is altogether different.

The Grade One Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle can go to Albert Bartlett casualty The Worlds End, which rates a solid proposition for Tom George.

Stable allies Whisper and Might Bite are getting to know each other. Might Bite was clearly the better of the pair in a photo-finish at Cheltenham but, as a fan of his enigmatic daddy Scorpion said afterwards, it was a case of the stallion having his first Cheltenham winner but quite possibly doing more harm than good to his reputation.

The pair clash again in the Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase. Might Bite is a risky proposition at odds-on, as he is quirky, but he is by a long way the most talented of this quintet. The worry is that the elongated run from the last bend to the line will play with his head, as the run-in did at Cheltenham. Otherwise he should win.

Their trainer, Nicky Henderson, has a strong hand in the opening Alder Hey Children's Charity Handicap Hurdle. Preference is for Rather Be, which was just 10/1 in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham when unseating. A smart sort in bumper combat, there may be more to come.

The Topham is exceptionally competitive: even Gold Cup also-ran Irish Cavalier takes his chance. Katnap, up in class, is an excellent jumper and a shot in the dark for Joseph O'Brien. Danny Mullins rides today.

The British have the bumper to themselves and If The Cap Fits is a strong each-way fancy for the Harry Fry barn. The son of Milan oozed class at Taunton and looks a high-calibre chasing prospect.

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