Market Rasen plays host to the highlight of Summer National Hunt Racing on Saturday, where the ITV cameras will be showing the Listed Summer Handicap Hurdle, and the Listed Summer Plate Handicap Chase. Last year the Hurdle was won by John Constable (150), whilst the Plate went to Paul Nicholls’ beautiful grey Alcala (147). I actually tipped up both of these winners 12 months ago, so the pressure is on to repeat the feat this time around!
14:05 – Summer Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race)
The first place to start when looking at any race this Summer campaign is ‘What has Dan Skelton got?’, and thankfully the horse I had my eye on was entered up for this valuable prize. The Skelton stable form has been nothing short of fantastic since the turn of the 2018/19 season, with Dan leading the trainers championship on 65 winners (plus 114 places) at the time of writing. After Mister Universum won at Warwick in May however, this has always been a race that I hoped connections would go for.
The six-year-old enjoyed a successful first campaign over Hurdles last season, winning twice and placing twice from six starts. Good ground is definitely the key to this horse, as has been highlighted by his two runs so far this year. Owned by the Notalotterry syndicate – who also own previous Summer Hurdle winner Red Tornado – Mister Universum made a solid comeback in April on Soft ground at Ludlow, finishing second to I’m A Game Changer (138) at 25/1. He clearly would have needed this run on ground which wouldn’t have suited, however he was in peak condition when last seen at Warwick. Our selection relished the faster ground and tracked the leaders before being ridden into the lead two from home, where he stayed on very strongly to score by 2½ lengths from Mystic Sky. Although the winning margin doesn’t suggest an above average performance, I feel that Harry still had plenty of horse in hand, and faster conditions on Saturday would not be a negative by any means. Off a mark of 130 Mister Universum will run from a nice racing weight of 11-0 under Bridget Andrews, and looking back at the history of the race this is the average winning weight of the last five renewals.
Back: Mister Universum Each/Way @ 10/1
15:15 – Summer Plate Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
It was somewhat of a suprise that a horse like Calett Mad was entered for this contest, but this looks a fantastic opportunity from a nice mark of 143. This six-year-old joined Nigel Twiston-Davies in 2016 and went straight to Novice Chasing after placing in a couple French Hurdle races for Francois Nicolle. After two wins from his first three starts, this Simon Munir & Isaac Souede owned horse finished second in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby before some tough races at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, although he did finish second again at the Ayr Festival behind Label Des Obeaux.
Last season Calett Mad went Novice Hurdling, winning twice before finding Grade 2 company too strong at Cheltenham and Doncaster. This smart stayer did win a Musselburgh Handicap in February, and was last seen scoring in a Listed Novice Hurdle at Perth by 31 lengths. With Good ground and a reversion to Fences at Market Rasen, Nigel Twiston-Davies must be hoping this horse will go very close under Daryl Jacob, as there does seem to be a slight class advantage over these rivals.
The Summer Handicap Hurdle is a race worth more than one dart however, especially with such a wide open market. With this in mind, last year’s winner Alcala is worth a bet as he races from only 1lb higher than 12 months ago. This Paul Nicholls charge won an outstanding five races in a row last summer, including when picking up this prize by ¾ length to Wadswick Court. 9lbs better off with that rival this time around, Alcala also has form tied in with more opposition on his latest start at Newton Abbot. Despite being beaten by stablemate Bagad Bihoue by 3½ lengths, the mount of Nick Schofield has gone up for that victory, so our selection is 4lbs better off at the weights for Saturday’s feature race. Viconte Du Noyer also ran in the race, finishing third behind the aforementioned pair – and like our selection – he hasn’t had his mark changed. Interestingly Sam Twiston-Davies has switched from Bagad Bihoue to Alcala for this race, so this suggests the stable feel he could be coming back to form to go close here at a track he clearly enjoys.
Back: Calett Mad Each/Way @ 8/1
Back: Alcala Each/Way @ 17/2
15:50 – Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m4½f
Champagne City is another horse which I hoped would be entered for the Summer Hurdle, however connections have chosen to go for the consolation race instead. This Tom George charge actually met Mister Universum in an above-average Novice Hurdle at Newton Abbot last season, beating him by a length. As another horse who relishes the fast conditions, Champagne City placed twice at Cheltenham after three wins in novice company last Summer. The five-year-old made a return to the track at Ludlow in May, but despite traveling well could only manage 4th after tiring in the home straight.
Clearly this Roger Brookhouse owned charge needed the run, as on his next start at Newton Abbot he went on to record a 4½ length success in a competitive field. Under a great ride from Jonathan Burke, Champagne City tracked the leaders around the outside before being ridden into the lead around the home bend, to score in good style from the second placed Red Tornado. This aforementioned previous winner of the Summer Hurdle has since franked the form, winning at Stratford on Sunday (15th July) by 11 lengths. As this Newton Abbot success came over 2m2f, stepping up to two-and-a-half miles today shouldn’t be a problem for our selection. Although raised 6lbs for that victory, a rating of 134 looks fair and is still very much a winnable mark considering conditions will be perfect. Tom Scudamore will take the ride.
Back: Champagne City to Win @ 3/1