Cheltenham prospects prepare for Exeter
Exeter racecourse's Bathwick Tyres-sponsored raceday this Sunday is worth nearly £75,000, and with some high-quality entries is set to be a prime opportunity to watch potential Cheltenham Festival contenders in action.
The Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices' Hurdle, a class one race over two miles and a furlong and worth £20,000, heads the card. The race is typically regarded as a trial for both the Supreme Novices and Ballymore Properties' Hurdle Races and previous winners include subsequent Arkle and World Hurdle winner My Way De Solzen and Spirit Son, who was regarded as a top-class prospect until injury curtailed his racing career.
Entries include Jeremy Scott's grade one winner Melodic Rendezvous. The seven-year-old started this season's campaign at Exeter in October, when he was beaten a length and a half by Mr Mole, who is also entered in this weekend's race.
Following that performance, Scott's horse scored in the British Stallion Studs/Pyments Quantity Surveyors EBF National Hunt Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and then scored a resounding success at Sandown in the 32 Red Hurdle Novices' Hurdle, beating Pendra – a horse he could re-oppose again on Sunday – by four and a half lengths.
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The Oliver Sherwood-trained Puffin Billy is another entry. He is unbeaten in all four starts under Rules and was last seen winning the Grade Two Mitie Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle at Ascot. The Alan King-trained Seventh Sign could also line up. He won a juvenile hurdle at Newbury in January and has an entry in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Kim Bailey has openly said Harry Topper is one of the best he has ever trained, and the six-year-old is entered in the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Graduation Chase over three miles, which has a £20,000 prize fund.
The gelding began his chasing career with a win at Exeter in November, beating Rocky Creek by one and a quarter lengths. Rocky Creek has since gone on and won two novice chases, while Harry Topper was the impressive winner of the Grade Two GPG Novices' chase at Newbury.
The Bathwick Tyres National Hunt Novices' Hurdle kicks off the card, and a potentially cracking race is in prospect. Horses with Cheltenham entries in the line up include the Paul Nicholls-trained Just A Par, who was impressive in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown in November, and the David Pipe-trained Broadway Buffalo, who makes his hurdles debut after two bumper wins.
Our Father, another Pipe horse, is in the RSA Chase at the Festival and could line up in the Bathwick Tyres Bridgwater Novices' Chase, run over two miles three furlongs. Philip Hobbs' Colour Squadron is also entered, and he could run in the Jewson at the Festival.
The Bathwick Tyres Barnstaple Handicap Chase and the Bathwick Tyres Intermediate Open National Hunt flat race complete the card.
The first of six races comes under starters' orders at 2pm. A free bus service leaves Exeter St David's at 12.20pm and Exeter Bus and Coach Station at 12.35pm, and returns half an hour after the last race. Children aged 17 and under enter free. Two tickets for £10 are available and must be pre-booked in advance by midnight on Saturday online or by telephoning 08445 793005. All pre-booked tickets will be entered into a draw to win a night at Bovey Castle. Terms and conditions apply.