An EBF Novice Stakes over 6f 16y on soft going. Nine two-year-olds competing at this idiosyncratic racecourse. Seven juveniles have race experience, all colts bar one gelding. The betting suggests this is a three-horse race and a couple of major protagonists have raced against each other over course and distance although on markedly different going. One big hope is Eve Johnson Houghton's Hedging. Place bet on William Hill because this horse has strong claims.
This Irish-bred son of Mastercraftsman looks a very good yearling purchase at just 8,500G, acquired by the trainer. This grey/roan colt is owned by The Picnic Partnership. Hedging was priced 16/1 on debut, backed from 25/1. He needed the experience on his racecourse debut and after a slow start ran on well in the closing stages under the handling of 5lb apprentice Edward Greatrex. He finished less than one length behind Sterling Silva who has proven a durable two-year-old for Richard Hannon and Middleham Park Racing. The form of that race looks fair. You always have to be careful with horses which finish with verve, to make sure they are not flattered, chasing home tiring horses. It can often be difficult to assess this fact and it should be noted the going that day was said to be good to firm but the time was over four seconds slow. Johnson Houghton has been pretty quiet this season with a small string of two-year-olds hitting the tracks. The stable have a few debut winners but these usually turn out to be talents, while most run well on their second start. Connection have done well another horse readers may have followed. Room Key [pictured] won on debut, which has been his only victory to date but raced at the highest levels, placed at Group class, even contesting group 1.
Hedging will need to be something special to emulate the successes of Room Key but he has plenty of time to improve on his initial start. He faces his old rival Bazwind, trained by David Evans, who was less than one length behind at Chepstow. He ran at Leicester on his second start where conditions were heavy. I would imagine that going was a little too testing and this course and going will be more suiting. However, I do feel that Hedging holds an edge over this colt.
Other live contenders include Andrew Balding's Stag Party. The stable do well at this course and interesting to see Edward Greatrex riding as he has done well with the few juveniles he has ridden for Kingsclere.
One horse that may go well at a price is Richard Hannon's Restore. This Irish-bred son of Dark Angel cost 55,000G at the yearling sales and showed promise on debut in what has turned out to be a hot race. He wasn't suited by dropping back to the minimum trip at Bath and simply run off his feet. With the claim of a 5lb apprentice, he could slip under the radar and at odds of 20/1 may hold some value.
Conclusion: Hedging looks to have a good chance of winning here although priced 11/8 doesn't give a great deal of value. I would be tempted to have a small each-way bet on Restore at huge odds.