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A new series pinpointing horses to follow over fences

Keith Melrose looks between the form lines to identify future winners

The omitted fences made for an especially stiff test at Exeter
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In the first of a new regular weekly series, northern reporter Keith Melrose nominates his chasers to follow

Lower Hope Dandy
Trainer: Venetia Williams
3rd, Exeter, January 1

The fences omitted at Exeter on New Year's Day put further emphasis on stamina at a track well known for its galloping nature, especially on the typically heavy ground in winter.

Conditions were probably not the most suitable for turning the screw half a mile out on a horse who had not run since the spring, but Lower Hope Dandy was travelling so well at that point of the 3m handicap chase that you can understand why Charlie Deutsch was tempted.

Deutsch's mount finished a tired third behind Western Climate, but it is fancied that his day will come.

For an 11-year-old, Lower Hope Dandy is relatively lightly raced, having in all likelihood had some problems (he ran just once between April 2013 and December 2015).

With that considered, it would be worrying if he ran again quickly after such a gruelling race. However, with only three chase runs behind him and the promise of his reappearance confirming the fire still burns, he is one to note next time – so long as it's not for a few weeks yet. 

Witness can star before long

Micky Hammond

4th, Catterick, January 1

Witness came to Micky Hammond from the fairly inauspicious background of claiming chases in Belgium and France, but he is a full-brother to Whisper.

He is never going to reach similar heights and it is pretty clear that 120, his initial mark in Britain, was too high as he rarely threatened last season.

Since dropping to the low 100s and returning from the summer off, he has looked more threatening. His SPs have suggested more has been expected and he has travelled well on his last two starts, latterly at Catterick on New Year's Day.

The other point of interest about Witness is that, while his mark has slipped, the company he has kept has remained much the same. He has still run only once below 0-120 level in Britain and could find himself in basement company next time if connections wish.

The caveat is that, at Catterick in particular, jumping seemed an issue. In a 0-105 or 0-100 over softer fences, he would more than likely be top of the shortlist. If he were racing in the (wholly fictitious) Melrose silks, he would be going to Sedgefield on February 6 for a 2m 0-100.

Harry has a shout

Whispering Harry
Henry Oliver
2nd, Plumpton, January 7

It is hoped that whoever has been backing Bramble Brook all his life had plenty on at Plumpton on Sunday, when he finally got off the mark at 6-4 in a four-runner race.

It was not weak as small-field 0-110 chases go, just steadily run, and that played into the hands of the winner, who has a history of tame finishing. He might go backwards from this given that he had been freshened up since the autumn.

Whispering Harry is showing signs of a return to winning ways

Runner-up Whispering Harry could be a better betting prospect. He might have forgotten what winning feels like, but he was rated 120 for his last victory in January 2015 and Sunday's run (off 107) added to the more circumstantial evidence from earlier in the season that he is working back to something like his old form.

Putting Richard Johnson up, for the first time since they were successful together over hurdles four years ago, suggests connections feel the same.

Losing out to Bramble Brook on a going day is no disgrace, despite what the latter's winning record says, and Whispering Harry might not be long in shedding his own millstone.


Yes, yes, he was 30-100, but the lack of ante-post noise after Mount Mews won at Doncaster on his chasing debut was a little surprising. He went off joint-favourite for the Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle last season and jumped extremely well, especially at pace, so he will surely be contesting Grade 1s at Cheltenham and/or Aintree.

Vaniteux has been identified as the David Pipe plot for Cheltenham at this early stage, though it would be wise not to forget about Broadway Buffalo just yet after his run at Taunton on Tuesday.

Despite an unflattering starting price, he showed up well for a long way on his second start back from a lengthy absence and could be working up to the Kim Muir, which the yard has won twice in the last seven runnings.

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Conditions were probably not the most suitable for turning the screw half a mile out on a horse who had not run since the spring
E.W. Terms
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