As of November 1 I'm providing regular updates exclusively for Josh Wright here and I'll also be adding to his tipping service through to the end of the National Hunt season. With all the extras Josh adds to his daily blog, it should provide tons of value for regular punters.
Ben Pauling had a couple of fancied runners at Wetherby on Saturday, headed by the highly touted Joe Dadancer in the opening novices hurdle.
We got a good look at him in the pre-parade and paddock and he immediately struck me as a bit of a bruiser, a strong, robust animal and a bit ignorant looking. By the time they'd departed I'd half convinced myself that he was fit enough for the job but he was carrying enough condition around the middle to make me look elsewhere.
Later on, Bangers And Mash also came in for good support and he certainly looks the type to do well over fences this year. However, he too was carrying plenty of timber and on this occasion I was pretty sure he wasn't going to see his race out, and so it proved.
I liked the way he moved through the race though and lack of fitness only began to tell from the second last. He's one to bear in mind next time I think.
I've always been a fan of the trainer (despite his penchant for silly dancing) but his progression through the ranks has levelled off in the last few years. However, after building a new yard on a golf course (!) he's had a very strong summer with more than a 30% strike rate, which was always going to revert to the mean at some stage.
Unsurprisingly, the more competitive month of October saw him send out only four winners and on this evidence it's possible that his winter team have been and may continue to need their first outing back. Harper's Brook would have been a convincing winner of that strong Carlisle novice chase on Sunday but for the very promising winner though. Hopefully I'll see more of Ben's horses in the coming weeks and keep you updated.
Alex Hales has always intrigued me as a guy who should get more winners than he does. And then between 19-21 he seemed to have a bit of breakthrough period before going quiet again, probably because those that had been winning were less well handicapped. He's been a little quiet again of late and he is the type of trainer to bring them along steadily at this time of year. He'll be back on my radar during the darkest months.
Another handler I really like is Lucy Wadham. I hadn't realised that she has hardly any summer jumpers and that makes me like her even more. I'm going label her 'Venetia-lite', as most of her runners/winners come between November and April. They often come in clusters and it has to be said she's had a very quiet year since bagging 'half a stretch' in January - just a solitary winner in the interim.
However, she wasn't far off a double at Wetherby with Hurricane Bay just losing out in a battle of the rags, and then stable star Martello Sky running her eyeballs out as per usual in the Listed mares hurdle.
It's actually quite hard to put a level on that novice hurdle in which Joe Dadancer flopped, I'm guessing Hurricane Bay is a 115-type at this stage although there's improvement to come in fitness and professionalism - watching the race back it was quite a performance.
Anyway, just keep an eye on the Wadham kennel for now and await further signs of rejuvenation.