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Nottingham Raceday Preview: Charlie Johnston, Hugo Palmer, Kevin Ryan, Charlie Fellowes, David Simcock and Ron Harris give their views on runners on an intriguing Saturday Card

Article 7th May 2021 Nottingham

By Nick Seddon

Charlie Johnston is hopeful that the in-form Mountain Brave can build on an impressive victory at Doncaster last week by picking up some black type in the Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Kilvington Stakes, a six-furlong contest for fillies and mares, at Nottingham tomorrow (Saturday 8th May).

The five-year-old has returned an improved model so far this term and produced a career-best effort when producing a pillar to post-performance to win a useful looking handicap a week ago.

And Johnston is hopeful that his mare – who is a 9-2 co-favourite of three with Chocoya and Last Empire - can continue her progression tomorrow.

Johnston, assistant to his father Mark, said: “We were really pleased with her win at Doncaster last week, it was in a significantly lower grade but you can’t knock the manner in which she went about it. She’s done really well from three to four, we went to Chelmsford for her first start knowing she’d need the run a bit and she duly stepped forward.

“I think we’ve had one go in this company before at Pontefract and came up a bit short but she’s fit and in form which is something she’s got over a few of her rivals anyways. She’s up there on Timeform ratings and she doesn’t have too much to find on official ratings, so hopefully we can get some black type with her.”

A filly who arrives here in good heart is the Hugo Palmer-trained Chocoya, who has hit the frame three times in stakes races so far this year. The latest of those came just nine days ago when just touched off at Chelmsford and while Palmer feels the three-year-old has a chance, he admitted that he’s wary of the quick turnaround.

He said: “We’re really keen to win a stakes race with her and she’s run three good races already in defeat this year. She looks to go Nottingham with a chance provided she’s fully recovered from a big effort at Chelmsford just nine days ago.

“That’s quite a quick turnaround after already having three runs this year but all the signs are she’s in good form – she’s bright and squealing – but you don’t do a great deal with them at home in a short period of time like that when they’ve just run their guts out.

“That has to be taken on trust and I think we’ll be fine on the ground as it is, but it just depends on this massive amount of rain. If it comes at the time it’s forecast to come in, we’ll have to have serious considerations about her participation.”

One mare who will relish any cut in the ground is the Kevin Ryan-trained Last Empire, who landed the Listed Prix de Bonneval on heavy ground at Chantilly in October.

Ryan said: “She’s an improving filly and it’s very much the more rain the better for her as she loves soft ground. It’s her first run of the year so she’s obviously going to improve for this, but we’re happy with her going into the race.”

Meanwhile, the seven-race card also sees the launch of this year’s Jockey Club Grassroots Flat Series, which aims to offer enhanced prize money for horses operating below the highest level and culminates on Finals Day at Nottingham on Wednesday 29th September.

Three of the four divisions have qualifiers on Saturday including the Middle Distance Series, in the Watch On Racing TV Handicap. One runner who arrives here in terrific heart is Morlaix, who switches to turf having won three of his last four starts on the all-weather.

And David Simcock is hopeful that there’s more to come from the four-year-old Mayson gelding yet. He said: “He’s a great big giant of a horse and he’s progressing nicely. It’s taken a little while for him to mature but he’s improved on the all-weather during the winter and we’ve got a feeling that he might just improve again with a bit of soft ground.”

Charlie Fellowes won the Stayers’ Final with Carnwennan in 2018 and runs Vanity Affair here, who he feels is perfect for this kind of initiative.

He said: “He would love a little bit of rain but I think it is going to come, so he could easily run and he’d be the perfect sort of horse for this series. He’s in fine form and as long as there’s rain he’ll handle the turf but he wouldn’t want rattling quick ground. Soft ground would be perfect.”

The first qualifier of the day is for the Sprint division in the Join Racing TV Now Handicap and the six-strong field includes course and distance winner The Daley Express.

The seven-year-old has rather lost his way on the all-weather since his victory here in September, but his trainer Ron Harris is hopeful that a combination of the switch back to turf and the booking of an old ally in Franny Norton can rejuvenate him.

He said: “We’ve given him a good break since the all-weather as he didn’t seem to take to it too much, but he’s in good shape and hopefully the ground will come his way. He’s won there in the past and it was nice that we could get Franny Norton as he’s won on him a few times. He’s well handicapped now and if he progresses back to the way he was, the final would be a great race to be in.”

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