Exeter Racecourse gets the New Year off to a stunning start with a superb seven race card featuring some of the sports most exciting jumping prospects for the future, none more so than Whisper who is entered in the Bathwick Tyres Beginners Chase.
Nico De Boinville is on board the Nicky Henderson-trained seven-year-old who makes his chasing debut of Exeter’s fences.
The 159-rated hurdle got up to win Cheltenham Festival’s Coral Cup by a head, beating Get Me Out of Here, and the followed up in the Grade 1 Silver Cross Stayers Hurdle at Aintree, staying on well to win by a length, and taking some notable scalps in the process including the favourite At Fishers Cross and Zarkander.
Racing kicks off with the Passage House Inn, Topsham Novices’ Handicap Hurdle and with the champion Tony McCoy deciding to ride at the Devon track, his mount Follow The Tracks could have a chance.
The Brian Barr-trained six-year-old ran a good race at the course two weeks ago finishing a neck behind the winner Bredon Hill Lad in a 16-runner amateur riders’ handicap hurdle. The pair opposes each other again, with Follow The Tracks looking better off this time, despite Lucy Gardner’s 5lb claim.
The Bob Buckler-trained Ballyegan comes to the track in good form having rattled up a brace of wins over fences in November and is returned to hurdles.
New Year’s Day is traditionally a day for newcomers, and hurdles debutante Sebastian Beach is sure to be a popular choice among those with that name. Given the champion is on board they could do worse as the Jonjo O’Neill-trained four-year-old has stacks of experience on the flat.
David Pipe’s quartet of runners includes Skylander, who won a bumper by 13 lengths a month ago and has winning point-to-point form.
Bob Buckler saddles My Happy Warrior in the Bathwick Tyres Bridgewater Handicap Chase who got no further than the first fence at the course two weeks ago having scored a neck win in a three runner race at Ffos Las in November for which he went up three pounds in the handicap.
Buddy Love, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, was a well-beaten favourite at Ludlow last month, with a mistake at the last not helping his cause, but prior to that he won a Leicester chase easing down at the finish and Milosam is another for the short list following another decent effort at the course last time when he finished two and a quarter lengths a drift of Adrenalin Flight.
McCoy is on board likely favourite Southfield Royale in the Royal Castle Hotel National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle. Bred by his owner Angela Yeoman, he carries the same colours as other notable stars like Sam Winner, and has won both his starts in a bumper and over hurdles, in good style.
The Thurlestone Hotel Handicap Hurdle, a qualifier for the Connolly’s Red Mills Precision Nutrition Series, is a competitive race and the Victor Dartnall-trained Exmoor Mist appeared to finish with enough in the tank to suggest he can defy a 7lbs rise in the weights following his impressive course win in early December.
Harry Fry saddles Assam Black, who has his first start in a handicap and Last Shadow was a winner at Uttoxeter last time out and can add to his tally.
Plenty of well-bred types line up in the bumper with the Paul Nicholls-trained The Eaglehaslanded, a point-to-point winner on his only start, likely to start favourite.