It is sad to learn the news, noted on Twitter on Tuesday night by @corneliusracing, that Will Kennedy has lost the ride on Time For Rupert. I would struggle to identify anything that Kennedy has got especially wrong on the horse, who just seems to have run up against quicker rivals in his two runs this season, but this is the kind of thing that happens when high expectations meet with disappointment.
Denis O’Regan will take the ride when Time For Rupert goes to Newbury next Wednesday. In the meantime, it seems that Kennedy and the horse’s trainer, Paul Webber, will no longer be working together. Webber has offered no public explanation for the split, telling this morning’s Racing Post that he doesn’t “want to wash my linen in public”.
Kennedy’s last ride for him was on Sarando, who fell when going well in the Hennessy. The jockey’s main employers now are Alastair Lidderdale and John Berry, so he is going to have to be lucky to get the leg-up on a horse with a profile remotely like Time For Rupert.
Hexham has passed an 8am inspection, which seemed pretty unlikely last night, when the course was 40% covered in snow and at risk of waterlogging if there was a thaw. In the event, 3mm of rain overnight appears to have cleared the snow but the going is heavy and the clerk of the course, James Armstrong, has advised that it will be “very testing”. Indeed, he has been quoted as saying that “there is some standing water, although everything has a bottom”.
Hopefully, the field for the handicap hurdle will see only the bottom of Code Blue (2.50) as he crosses the line. I quite fancied Donald McCain’s eight-year-old for his reappearance run, also his handicap debut, but it turned out that he needed the run and he was never sighted with a chance.
Still, he stayed on well enough to suggest that his current rating will indeed prove lenient when conditions suit. He won a novice hurdle on heavy over this course and distance last autumn, which turned out to be his final run of that season.
He’s well priced at 7-2 because the market prefers Arisea. Her recent wins have been on a much sounder surface, although she does have a win on heavy to her name, in a novice race from 2007.
The going is actually firm on the chase course at Leicester, which may help Argaum (2.30) to make a winning debut over fences. He has needed a sound surface over hurdles and it makes him dangerous in a small field like this, because he can dominate from the front.
His main rival, Spice Bar, is not a fast horse and managed to blunder away a winning advantage when under no pressure at Musselburgh last month, his second start over fences. Argaum is prefered at 3-1.
Hopefully, Tony McCoy is not feeling any after-effects from his tumble at Fontwell on Tuesday that left him limping into the paddock for the next race (which, being McCoy, he won). He has a fine chance on Christopher Wren (3.00), a 100-30 shot for the handicap hurdle.
This chestnut, a winner off 81 on the Flat for John Best, has moved along the south coast to Nick Gifford and seemed to find things happening a little quickly over two miles on his first two starts over hurdles. He also finished tired on his debut at Chepstow but was sharp enough to win over today’s track last time and the extra half-mile should help, as well as taking some of the pressure off his jumping.
Fiendish Flame is the favourite on the basis of his course and distance win last week, for which he carries a penalty, but it is open to question what he achieved in beating five rivals in a race that rather fell apart.
Tipping competition, day three
Surely no tipster has ever been hotter than curlycov, who won last week’s competition and then hit three out of three yesterday, finding Bring It On Home (8-1), Mediterranean Sea and Sundown Trail (11-4). He is quite literally on fire and, needless to say, now has the lead. Kudos also to hegman and fatfrank29, who had Mediterranean Sea and Bring It On Home. Tom1977 and Thewrongtree had both Sundown Trail and Mediterranean Sea, while slackdad38 had Sundown Trail and Bring It On Home.
Today, we’d like your tips, please, for these races: 3.00 Leicester, 3.20 Hexham, 4.50 Kempton.
This week’s prize is a set of four Paddock enclosure tickets to Kempton on Tuesday 27 December, day two of their Winter Festival, kindly offered by William Hill, who sponsor the meeting. The card features the Desert Orchid Chase, in which Petit Robin beat Well Chief the last time the race was staged in 2009.
As ever, our champion will be the tipster who returns the best profit to notional level stakes of £1 at starting price on our nominated races, of which there will be three each day up until Friday. Non-runners count as losers. If you have not joined in so far this week, you are welcome to do so today, but you will start on -6.
In the event of a tie at the end of the week, the winner will be the tipster who, from among those tied on the highest score, posted their tips earliest on the final day.
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