31 October, 2016 – All roads lead to Haldon Hill today where Exeter Racecourse stages Devon’s richest raceday today with the seven racecard featuring the 188Bet Haldon Gold Cup. Eight horses are entered in the prestigious Grade 2 contest which is run over two miles and a furlong, including the 2015 Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets.
Racecourse ambassador Nick Scholfield rides the Paul Nicholls-trained eight-year-old whose grade one successes also include Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase, and Ascot’s Sodexo Clarence House Chase.
A 30 race career has accumulated over £0.5m in prize money with last year proving his most inauspicious having been on the easy list for the first half of the season and then making a below par effort in the mud at Newbury in February. However, he concluded the season with a fine third in the Celebration Chase behind reigning two-mile champion chaser Sprinter Sacre.
Garde Victoire made his seasonal return a winning one when scoring a length and a half success in the Welsh Champion Hurdle two weeks ago. He’d had two confidence denting falls with Cheltenham Festival glory ending four fences from home in the JLT Novices’ Chase and his subsequent start at the Aintree Festival grinding to a halt at the 13th fence. But he’s a high-class campaigner who could very well trouble Dodging Bullets for the spoils and for favouritism.
Harry Fry saddles Presenting Arms who went down half a length to Marracudja in a two mile novice chase at Cheltenham 11 days ago, Tom Scudamore is on board the Colin Tizzard trained Ultragold who finished well behind Fox Norton in the Randox Health Handicap Chase, Pain Au Chocolat is open to plenty of improvement and a step back in trip could benefit Sir Valentino.
The Bathwick Tyres National Hunt Novices’ Hurdle is the first of the seven races where the Paul Nicholls-trained Rouge Devils is sure to start favourite having scored on his last two starts, but he’s giving 9lbs to his opponents and the Harry Fry-trained Murifield, with Michael Legg claiming 5lbs, is an interesting recruit from point-to-pointing. He won his latest start with ease at Little Windsor in May.
David Pipe saddles Poisoned Berry on the two miles Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices Hurdle. He was sent of the favourite in a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot in August following a win at Worcester, but he was well beaten. He may be fresh from a short break.
The classy Emerging Force drew plenty of attention following his win at Hereford three weeks ago when he impressed with the ease of his win and Harry Whittington’s charge will be a warm order to follow up in the 188Bet.co.uk Novices’ Chase. The race was won by Native River last year, who was beaten a length and a quarter in The National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup, and Whittington already has an appearance at the Cheltenham Festival in mind for the six-year-old with the RSA the possible target.
The staying on style of By The Boardwalk’s recent success at Market Rasen suggest the trip and track will suit the Kim Bailey-trained eight-year-old who lines u in the Smith & Williamson handicap Chase where Dreamsoftheatre is creeping down the handicap and Gary Charm looks the best of David Pipe’s three entries having unseated when travelling well at the time in the Ryman Stationary Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham two weeks ago.
Mother Meldrum is stepped up in trip for the £25 Free Bet At 188Bet Handicap Hurdle. She’s a consistent type who won twice at the track in the spring. Monkhouse pulled up on his seasonal return at Southwell a month ago and is open to improvement while Mighty Leader has his first start for Fergal O’Brien since his former trainer Sally Randall was appointed his assistant.
A 14-runner handicap hurdle concludes the card with the Johnny Farrelly-trained Amantius likely to attract interest on his return to hurdles after plying his trade on the flat. He was beaten two and a quarter lengths at Wolverhampton in September in a competitive two-mile handicap. Chris Down saddles Culm Counsellor who was beaten a head in a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at in early October.