The Midlands Grand National takes centre stage at Uttoxeter on Saturday and the Racing Post’s Robbie Wilders provides four bets at the showpiece meeting.
Stag Horn @ 10/1
Secret Reprieve @ 10/1
Some horses simply don’t take to fences and given STAG HORN’s Flat pedigree it was no surprise he struggled at Catterick last time on his chasing debut. He is given another chance in the 2m4f handicap hurdle (1.50).
The handicapper dropped him a generous 5lb for that run and it is worth remembering that he was quite well backed on his seasonal return in the Lanzarote before finding that race too hot. Fourteen runners were pulled up in that and the performance is well worth forgiving.
Stag Horn is 7lb lower than when he began his season and you only need to go back to January last year to find a piece of Grade 2-winning form at Warwick in the Leamington Spa.
He gave a nice beating to Gentleman At Arms and that horse went on to place in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree.
The ground will be similar to when my selection scored at Warwick and Archie Watson’s runner has more to give with hurdles back in front of him.
I’ll be playing two in the following extended 2m7f handicap hurdle (2.25) and they are WILDE ABOUT OSCAR and SAM BROWN.
Wilde About Oscar, representing the in-form Dan Skelton stable, is two from two at Uttoxeter and it seems like this has been the long-term plan despite the fact he qualified for the Pertemps Final.
Cheltenham is not his track and he is 10lb lower than his last winning mark and back on the soft ground he likes.
Sam Brown is fascinating switching back to hurdles off a mark of 147 after just two starts in this discipline. Draw a line through his Denman Chase run last time as the ground was simply too quick.
A bit like Rouge Vif, he missed his major seasonal target as the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield was rained off in January and never rearranged.
Sam Brown encounters the slow ground he needs for the first time this season and merits respect off a 12lb lower hurdles mark of 147 at a price under Aidan Coleman. That leaves him with scope to rate higher.
The Midlands Grand National (3.00) is a typically tricky puzzle to solve and there is a chance Iwilldoit, attempting to land a four-timer of top staying handicap chases, might remain ahead of his mark of 155 given how well he won at Warwick.
I’d rather side with soft-ground lover SECRET REPRIEVE at a much bigger price, though.
Secret Reprieve’s stamina is beyond dispute as, like Iwilldoit, he is a Welsh National winner and it almost seems surprising that Secret Reprieve is one year the other’s junior.
This nine-year-old is still pretty low mileage and it seems as if Evan Williams has laid him out for this race, while a 2lb drop for his staying-on third at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day looks quite generous.
He appears to be the forgotten one in the line-up at the early prices.