The new season gets underway at Exeter today with the Richard Merton Memorial Novices’ Handicap Hurdle kicking off the six race card.
Court King is likely to head the betting on the back of his recent double.At Uttoxeter he got into the winning groove in handicap hurdle and followed up under a penalty at Bangor with his trainer Peter Bowen saying the application of a hood is the reason for his transformation.
He faces 12 opponents including the Dr Richard Newland-trained Desert Sensation who took the 3m 11/2 furlong handicap hurdle at Fontwell on Saturday showing improved form over a longer trip on softer ground. He won with plenty in hand and looks well ahead of his mark.
Philip Hobbs saddles Wolftrap in the Great Point Media Handicap Hurdle. He held on by a neck to win a two mile handicap hurdle at Worcester in May, for which he has been raised 10lbs.
Another summer on his back may bring out further improvement. Coeur Tantre also lines up. Last seen winning a 2m2f handicap hurdle at Newton Abbot in August, he’s gone up 7lbs.
David Pipe heads the trainers’ championship in prize money won and Houston Dynimo could add to his haul in the Newmarket Betting at 188Bet Handicap Chase. He was beaten two lengths in a 3m2f handicap chase at Newton Abbot at the back end of August and comes here today off a mark of 102 with David Noonan taking another 3lbs off his back. Emma Lavelle saddles Pawn Star whose winning run came to an end at Newton Abbot a couple of weeks ago when the well handicapped Belmount came home in front. Behind him was On The Bridge, another of today’s runner who may still be too high in the weights.
Minellacelebration, trained by Katy Price, has won at Exeter over hurdles, albeit on heavy ground, and he returns today for his chasing debut in the 188Bet.co.uk Beginners’ Chase. He’s had plenty of experience over fences having won four point-to-points. Nigel Hawke saddles Rock Of Leon bought after his selling hurdle win at Worcester last month.
Exeter is a happy hunting ground for Harry Fry who last season enjoyed a 53% strike rate and £24.76 profit for a £1 stake. He saddles Imperial Glance in the Great Point Media Investment Novices’ Hurdle who could well have improved after a year on the sidelines after finishing last of four at the track in October 2015 in a 2m1f novices’ hurdle.
The 188Bet Conditional Jockeys’ Novices’ Hurdle concludes the card. Chris Down saddles Billy My Boy who wears blinkers for the first time. He was beaten a length a couple of weeks ago at Worcester in a 2m handicap hurdle where he kept on gamely under pressure and could be well handicapped today.
The raceday is a fundraiser for Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity. Hannah Francis passed away in August from a rare form of bone cancer aged just 18 years old. Hannah, a talented event rider, was diagnosed in May 2015, and determined to make a difference, she chronicled of her illness from the point of view of her own cuddly toy mascot, called Willberry Wonder Pony. A close friend suggested selling Willberry Wonder Pony wristbands to raise money, and her fundraising campaign was an instant success.
She made every day count and raised more than £115,000 through fundraising events and selling Willberry merchandise. In May, Hannah announced that Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony had been approved as a registered charity and to date it has raised in excess of £190,000 for its two causes - funding bone cancer research and granting equine related wishes to seriously ill young people.
Exeter is donating £1 of every ticket purchased to come racing, and there are bucket collections and merchandise for sale.