Steve Hughes has two selections for one of Plumpton’s best ever race days.
The Sussex National is traditionally one of the big highlights of Plumpton’s season and I have my nap in the big race. However the supporting card is strong and includes probably the best race ever run at the track, with six classy runners in pursuit of a victory here, and then at the Cheltenham Festival to earn a juicy bonus. We had a strong Saturday with a victory for Calipto (advised 9/2) and each-way placed efforts for Exitas (20/1 – thanks to the 6 places with Skybet), Rock Gone (Sp 13/2) and Our Merlin (advised 5/1).
Plumpton 1.40: Phoenix Way
A handful of decent horses stand out in a field of largely dead wood, and in receipt of 6lbs Phoenix Way can get off the mark under rules.
The winner of his only point in Ireland over 3m, he is clearly held in high regard at home with trainer Harry Fry as he was made a warm favourite for his first start for the yard at Bangor in November. It was an underwhelming effort however as he could only finish fifth after pulling far too hard. However he showed up much better when second to the useful I Cant Explain at Sandown, recovering from a bad mistake three out and finishing strongly up the run-in.
Those first two runs were over 2m, but he will surely be better suited by the extra 5f today and should be improving with experience. Of his main rivals, Commanche Red has not built on his seasonal debut win at Fontwell, Its Got Legs looks a lazy type who might not be best served by this sharp track. Perhaps the biggest threat is Third Wind, an impressive winner of a similar contest here last month. However he disappointed second time out last season, and this big strapping chaser of the future might not be able to back up that run here either.
Plumpton 2.40: The Two Amigos
An absolute revelation this season, The Two Amigos looks tailor made for a provincial national like this and can continue his progression in what looks a weaker field than normal.
This thorough stayer showed promise over hurdles with David Pipe a couple of seasons ago, but has really thrived over fences since. He won his first five starts in points last season, making all in most, but ran out on the final occasion early on. In three races under rules he has continued to show that potential, but without any sign of quirks.
He won by a mere 53l at Newton Abbot in October, albeit in a freakish contest. He probably found 3m on fast ground at Market Rasen a tad on the sharp side next time, but still gave the well handicapped Some Chaos a real race. However it was his authoritative display when landing the 3m6f handicap at Exeter last time that really marked him down as a stayer to follow. Whilst this is quite a tight track for this relentless galloper, it does lend itself well to front-running types like him.
1pt win – Phoenix Way – 1.40 Plumpton – 5/4 general
1pt win – The Two Amigos – 2.40 Plumpton – 15/8 general