We have another cracking National Hunt card on Friday, and with the Grade 2 Haldon Cup among the prizes up for grabs at Exeter, here are three horses worth keeping an eye:
Nicky Henderson stated earlier in the week at Warwick that the novice hurdle contests at the moment are very hot races, with plenty of nice types coming out to make their hurdling debuts, which can make them something of an unknown package heading into the races.
Joe Tizzard had a little sparkle in his eye when talking about Diamond Ri on his stable tour via racingtv, and their retained jockey Brendan Powell Jr also very much likes this horse.
We have only seen Diamond Ri once on the racecourse, which was in a bumper contest at Warwick in late March, where he won with real ease. Any horse that can win on debut at that course is an animal with some talent, as Warwick is a very tricky, tight track to race for a first effort.
The Tizzard-trained son of Diamond Boy was actually sent off favourite for that debut race, so vibes were very strong for him. whether from the yard or because of how he looked and acted before the race, which can be a huge pointer with these younger types.
As mentioned, that debut effort was a real eye-catching performance, as he travelled nicely throughout the race, going the best as they went around the bend with three furlongs to go, before forging clear in the final stages.
He was eased down towards the finish, after running a little green in the closing stages when out in front by himself, which can be the case with these younger, inexperienced horses making their first competitive starts.
He should be tailor-made for hurdling, and vibes from home are that he could be one of these special novice hurdlers that trainers dream of.
Hopefully that can be the case and he can get off the mark at the first time of asking on Friday, reinforcing the anticipation for this exciting addition to the novice hurdling ranks.
READ MORE: Diamond Ri also features in our 8 To Follow article here on Tipstrr
This looks to be a really interesting novice chase, where we get to see an exciting addition to the chasing ranks make his first start over the larger obstacles.
Paul Nicholls has a 27% win rate at Exeter for the last 5 seasons (34 winners in 124 runners) and the yard currently operates at a 23% strike rate for the season already. They have their Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay making his chase debut at Exeter on Friday afternoon.
Given the yard’s record with these types of horses, he will obviously go off a very short price for his chasing debut, although Nicholls stated on his stable tour via ATR that he is a horse that doesn't show much at home, but when he is on the racecourse he somehow manages to put it altogether and go well.
That Albert Bartlett performance showed how good of a stayer he is, as he plugged on nicely up the hill to win by a length.
He had been unlucky not to go into that race off the back of a victory at Doncaster, after coming runner-up in the Grade 2 River Don Novices Hurdle, and the trainer felt he probably should have won that day. However that didn't deter him, as he won with aplomb at the Festival.
Stay Away Fay then went on to run at Aintree, where he came fourth in the Grade 1 Grand Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, relatively well beaten and looking a little weak in the finish.
However, Nicholls stated that the race at Cheltenham could have left a little mark on him after a relatively quick turnaround. The summer break will have freshened him up nicely, and now tackling this new code might rekindle the spark needed for the season ahead.
Given his record in this race, any runners from Paul Nicholls have to be taken very seriously, even if they might lack the talent that some of the previous winners of the race have.
The yard has won this renewal on eight occasions, with a few of the big names being Politologue and Greaneteen, who are both Grade 1 horses in their own right.
The race lacks its usual depth this year, as 11 of the last 12 previous winners have been rated 151 or higher, and there is just one horse in Editeur De Gite who is higher than that. And unfortunately he is rated 165, meaning he has to give all of his rivals a whole load of weight on his seasonal re-appearance.
Solo is the runner for team Ditcheat this year, and off the fairly lowly mark of 149 he does get a handy weight to carry around here. One thing to note is he does seem to operate better at the slightly longer distances, mainly being around the two-and-a-half-mile mark.
This is the trip over which he won a Grade 2 at Kempton last season. He has previously run well in some decent two-mile contests earlier on in his career, but his recent best form would be over the longer trip.
That said he is a Grade 2 winner previously, and given that he does tend to go well fresh and is one of the younger runners in the field, he could improve to be a 150 to 160+ horse during this campaign. As mentioned Paul Nicholls' record in the race is phenomenal, and he always sends a horse here that he really fancies to win the contest. With that in mind, he can be expected to have made the right judgement call here with Solo.
He does well in the early season races, and the expected soft conditions should not be an issue come Friday.
Race previews provided by @ Jake Russell