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Wednesday 23 November 2016

6.25 Chelmsford, Thursday, November 24

In the Bet Tote Trifecta Handicap (6.25) at Chelmsford on Thursday, Primrose Valley has been fighting a losing battle with the handicapper since completing a four-timer on synthetic surfaces early last year, but drops into 0-85 company for the first time since winning, off today’s mark, at Kempton in January 2015. The Pastoral Pursuits filly is 13lb lower in the weights than when last winning and, while her recent performances have been less than stellar, she is undeniably well handicapped on her best form. She’s gone well after a break in the past, so an absence of 61 days is less of a worry than might otherwise be the case, and she wasn’t beaten far, off a 2lb higher mark, when last seen at Haydock in September. Back on Polytrack, she must have a decent chance if anywhere near her best, especially with talented apprentice Hector Crouch taking off 3lb.

Selection: Chelmsford 6.25 Primrose Valley to win

Thursday 3 November 2016

3.20 Wincanton, Saturday, November 5

It was my intention this week to be all over Higher Power, erstwhile ante post favourite for the November Handicap at Doncaster, but unseasonably fast ground on Town Moor has led to the withdrawal of James Fanshawe’s progressive four-year-old. Consequently, I have switched my attention to one of my favourite races of the year, the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton, in which the ante post favourite Southfield Theatre also appears to have an outstanding chance.

Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old ran just four times last season, finishing tailed off last on his first two starts, being brought down in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and finishing fourth of 20, beaten 6¼ lengths, behind The Young Master in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. It’s worth remembering that he sustained a nasty cut in his leg when finishing second to Don Poli in the RSA Chase the previous season and Paul Nicholls’ were out of form this time last year. Indeed, his trainer believed he wasn’t badly handicapped at Cheltenham off a mark of 150 and he’s down to 147, so he must have an excellent prospects for a yard with a 12-33 (36%) strike rate in the last fortnight.

Selection: Wincanton 3.20 Southfield Theatre (4/1 with Sky Bet) to win