Steve Hughes sticks with the only jumps fixture of the day at Exeter on Tuesday
Although outnumbered by the three meetings on the All Weather today, Exeter stages an excellent card over obstacles this afternoon and I have chosen two quality chases on the card. A trio of classy hurdlers make their debut over fences, but some more seasoned campaigners line up for a 3m handicap. Ty Gwr started the week off on the right note with a 5/2 win at Pontefract.
Exeter 3.10: Far West
Although we nominally have a field of nine for this novice chase, only three really count with experienced handicap hurdler Dunraven Storm, top class novice hurdler Puffin Billy and former Triumph Hurdle second Far West far superior to the other six runners. It is the youngster Far West with the biggest potential to improve over fences.
He won on his first four starts over hurdles as a juvenile in this country, most notably landing a Grade 2 at the Cheltenham open meeting. He ran right up to scratch at the Festival too, seeing off all the other British challengers, only to run into an inspired Our Conor on the day. As so often with hurdlers coming out of their juvenile season, the second year was tougher. He started well with a second in the Elite Hurdle behind Melodic Rendezvous at Wincanton, but was then unsuited by the sharp track and slow pace at Haydock.
However he was in the process of running a mighty race in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury before falling at the last with a big jump required to keep him in contention. He was well beaten though at the Festival in March with a combination of heavy ground and a longer trip finding him out. However he has the scope to jump a fence and the return to this shorter trip will suit him better than Puffin Billy, who could be better over 2m4f these days. It is late in the day for Dunraven Storm, not the best of jumpers over a hurdle to be going chasing so Far West looks the logical option here.
Exeter 3.40: As De Fer
No trainer is in better form at present that Anthony Honeyball and few handlers can get them as ready first time up off a break either. As a result As De Fer is expected to return to his best form having missed the whole of last season through injury.
That might not have been too bad a thing because the Honeyball yard was under a cloud for most of last season. That is not the case now with everything running well from the stable this month. At the age of eight, there is still time for As De Fer to prove himself at a high level, having looked to be really going places back in 2011.
This French import was given a run down the field in both a bumper and hurdle before really excelling once sent chasing. Wins at Ffos Las (twice) and this track over trips between 2m5f and 3m were produced with the minimum of fuss with a combined margin of victory of 47l, the last coming off a mark of 135. He fully deserved to take his chance in the Welsh National that Christmas, and ran well until getting very tired four out in desperate conditions. That race may well have left a mark as he has not been the same since in three starts. However an absence since the end of the 2012/3 season will have freshened him up and it is interesting that Denis O’Regan is called up having already got a 2-6 record for the yard to date.
2pts win – Far West – 3.10 Exeter (5/4 Paddy Power)
1pt win – As De Fer – 3.40 Exeter (4/1 general)