Balding targets valuable optional claiming handicap at Kempton with Isomer
The eighth of ten optional claiming handicaps takes place at Kempton in the evening (7.45) and there are pretty clear patterns over which trainers have seized the opportunity they provide.
David O'Meara has been represented in five of the previous seven – more than anyone else – while Stuart Williams has won two with Hart Stopper.
Both have runners in this mile event too (Grandee and Fayez for O'Meara and Pactolus for Williams) and so does Andrew Balding, who like Williams has had two winners in the series.
Balding saddles Isomer, the only runner in the 14-strong field to have the full 7lb allowance these races allow. Normally off 94, he is off 87 here and has Joshua Bryan's 3lb claim too.
"He didn't run very well in heavy ground at Ayr last time, but we think he's handicapped to the hilt, so we've claimed all the allowance we could with him," said Balding.
On his attitude to claiming handicaps, he said: "We've had a few runners in these races, but this is the first we've put up for a claim [by reducing his mark]. They offer good prize-money and can be a good avenue for resale."
Jenkins makes chasing bow
The beginners' chase at Stratford (2.50) is effectively a match – the third runner Sussex Road is officially rated 44 – but it could well be informative.
Jenkins, winner of the Grade 3 Holloway's Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last season and one-time Supreme Novices' favourite, is set to make his debut over fences and will be tested against the Harry Fry-trained Bags Groove.
On hurdles form Jenkins would have the edge, to the tune of 3lb on BHA ratings and 7lb on Racing Post Ratings. There is mitigation in both Bags Groove's chasing experience, gained when second at Uttoxeter in May, and his superior background for the job.
Bags Groove is by Oscar out of a half-sister to Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Imperial Call. He was born to jump fences and will ensure Jenkins' mettle is tested on his first chase run.
Return of the Mac
Runner-up to Camelia De Cotte on her second start over fences at the Listowel festival last month, the Henry de Bromhead-trained five-year-old Ellie Mac faces seven rivals in the 2m4f rated novice chase at Tipperary (4.15).
The mare is owned by family and friends of racing fan and student Niccolai Schuster, who was 21 when he was tragically killed in Berkeley, California in 2015 when a balcony collapsed.
A winner over hurdles at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting last year, Ellie Mac is the mount of Rachael Blackmore and De Bromhead said: "Ellie Mac ran a very good race at Listowel. She seems in good form and we're looking forward to a good run."
Ellie Mac's rivals include the Jessica Harrington-trained pair Fintara, the mount of Robbie Power, and Flaviana, who will be ridden by Donie McInerney.
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