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If you cast your mind back to the last day of 2022, the feature race at Newbury propelled Hermes Allen into the role of Britain’s best novice hurdler, when scooting up in the Challow. Sent off the 4-1 second favourite, Joyeux Machin was one of those who failed to cope with monsoon conditions and was pulled up. It’s fair to say Paul Nolan’s hopes have yet to be realised, with the Saddler Maker gelding beaten 36 lengths in a Grade 2 at Fairyhouse over Easter before making little impression on his handicap debut at Punchestown. The Support the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund Hurdle (7.30) at Nolan’s local track, Wexford, is a chance for Joyeux Machin to step up to three miles and to race of level weights against four rivals. The Gordon Elliott-trained Jungle Prose looks the potential favourite, while Shark Hanlon attempts to wring some improvement out of Dragon Rock, a lightly raced recruit from Willie Mullins.
And if you’re curious about the name, ‘machin’ is a French slang placeholder used when you can’t remember the name of a person or object. Joyeux Machin is basically “Happy Thingamajig' or ‘Happy Whatshisname’.
While Frankie Dettori’s farewell world tour might be making the headlines, the altogether more discreet Keith Dalgleish is making a pretty good fist of winding down his training career. Dalgleish has sent out five winners from his last 15 runners and sends just Breguet Boy the 20 minutes down the road to Hamilton for the Stay At Hampton By Hilton Hamilton Park Handicap (5.20). A winner at Musselburgh a fortnight ago, Breguet Boy is up 4lb and bids to make it three wins from six starts since joining the yard, all under today’s jockey Billy Garritty.
With the final Group 1 of the season in the books last Sunday the quality begins to wind down in Hong Kong but there are some familiar names lining up in the Class 2 Briar Handicap (3.50) that closes out the Happy Valley card today. Back in October, Savvy Nine started this campaign when pitched in against subsequent Hong Kong Mile winner California Spangle, and has performed well in better races at Sha Tin once the experiment with ten furlongs was abandoned. Franky Lor continues to put everything into trying to close down John Size’s ten-winner lead in the race to be champion trainer and fields Butterfield, who ran in the same Group 3 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy behind Savvy Nine last October and has endured the demoralising task of chasing rising start Straight Arron on his last two starts. Regular Hong Kong watchers will also be pleased to catch up with Savaquin and Turin Redsun, especially on a day when no horse with a Flat rating of higher than 82 will be in action.
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The Front Runner is our unmissable email newsletter available exclusively to Members' Club Ultimate subscribers. Chris Cook, a four-time Racing Reporter of the Year award winner, provides his take on the day's biggest stories and tips for the upcoming racing every morning from Monday to Friday. Not a Members' Club Ultimate subscriber? Click here to join today and also receive our Ultimate Daily emails plus our full range of fantastic website and newspaper content.