Oscar Nominee ready for rare appearance at Taunton this afternoon
Taunton hosts the second of its February meetings this afternoon when the first of the six races on the card – five over hurdles and a National Hunt flat race – goes to post at 2pm.
The most valuable event of the day is the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Hurdle, a Class Two race, over two miles one furlong at 3.40pm.
Although top weight Oscar Nominee, trained by Nicky Henderson, has not raced for almost a year, he looks to be the one to fancy in this company, while the ever-reliable Home Run from the Pipe yard cannot be overlooked.
First up is the Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle over two miles and a furlong.
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Edmund Kean – locally trained by David Pipe and ridden by Conor O’Farrell, won at Fakenham last week and looks to be the one to beat in this contest.
However, he is likely to be challenged by Kauto d’Aloes, ridden by Daryl Jacob for Paul Nicholls, while Upswing, the mount of champion jockey A P McCoy for Jonjo O’Neill, is also expected to be in the mix.
Next to post is the Rural Living Show Here 23rd March Handicap Hurdle over three miles and half a furlong.
The Alex Hales-trained Gilzean is expected to be highly fancied. Also worth a look are Bernard, trained by Kevin Bishop near Bridgwater, and Starlet Mandy, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies for his father, Nigel.
The Weatherbys Bank Novices’ Hurdle is a Class Three event, also over three miles and half a furlong. Return Spring, from the Philip Hobbs yard, and Highland Retreat under Noel Fehily look to be the horses to follow.
In the Family Fun Day Meeting 4th April Handicap Hurdle, the O’Neill-trained Bold Raider under McCoy is likely to be fancied, but others to look out for in this three miles and half a furlong contest include Man of Leisure, under claimer James Best, and lightest weight Admiral Blake, ridden by Dougie Costello.
The Ladies Day 24th April Standard National Hunt Flat Race over two miles one is the last to go to post at 4.45pm. Split Or Stick, trained by Rebecca Curtis, and Shadow Cruise from Tim Vaughan’s stable are both worth looking at. Taunton races again on Thursday, February 28, when the first race is off at 2.10pm.
Giles Cross was found to be sore when pulled up in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock last Saturday.
Devon-based trainer Victor Dartnall is having the 11-year-old checked out after jockey Denis O’Regan took him out at the third-last fence in a race he had won 12 months earlier. “He hit his near-fore joint in the race and is sore. That’s why he was pulled up,” Dartnall said.