Gutsy mare Midnight Jazz could be given a Cheltenham Festival target next March by Edgcote trainer Ben Case.
The six year-old owned by the family of the late David Allen was beaten only half a length by Stephanie Frances in the OLBG.com Listed Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday, her late rally just failing to haul in the Dan Skelton-trained winner.
Stephanie Frances finished eighth behind Vroum Vroum Mag in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last March off a rating of 138 and Case, who also trained Ring Back, the mare’s dam, believes Midnight Jazz might now be raised a pound or two from a mark of 135 which makes such a notion realistic.
“I have been thinking of sending her chasing but the Cheltenham race is very much an option,” said Case, also considering a hurdle run for Midnight Jazz at Cheltenham in December, a contest in which she was fourth of ten to Lily Waugh last year, when still looking a feasible winner at the last flight.
“Midnight Jazz was third in the Wetherby race last year so perhaps we will go back there in 12 months time looking for a 3-2- 1,” said Case. “It was poignant she won the race at Stratford a couple of weeks ago,” he added. “I took her out of that race last year as Mr Allen had died, because I thought it was the right thing to do. His family then told me they would have been happy for her to run, but by then it was too late.”
Midnight Jazz has won five of her 18 career starts, finishing in the first three on another seven occasions and first registered with Northamptonshire race goers when landing her second bumper on her only appearance at Towcester in May 2014.
Meanwhile, Case was far from disheartened by the performances of his other Saturday runners Croco Bay, Crookstown and First Drift, although none of them hit the headlines on this occasion.
Croco Bay, a faller at Cheltenham on his previous run, was unsettled by a mistake at Ascot and tailed off in the race won by Quite By Chance but it would be dangerous to write him off at this stage.
“I have had a look at the race again and don’t really think the mistake was all that bad,” reflected Case. “The horse is normally a sound jumper.”
Meanwhile, Crookstown was still in contention at Wetherby when an error stopped his momentum at a critical stage of the race and he is another who could suddenly pop up at a big prize. In common with many other trainers, Case is waiting for soft ground for many of his horses, although Graceful Legend ran a pleasing third in a maiden hurdle at Fakenham last week.
LOCAL trainers Alex Hales and Stuart Edmunds have both seen rare flat runners placed in the last week with Take Two a runner-up at 33/1 at Lingfield last Thursday for Hales while Topmeup was third, beaten just a length and a half by Rake’s Progress at Kempton on Tuesday.
TWO of the great heavyweights of the Flagkick winter naps table sit alongside one another at the summit after last Saturday’s opening skirmishes but they could be described as very different animals...
Operating under the guise of The Barnstormers, Adrian Booth has been tipping champion on four occasions, winning the jumping competition in 2004 and 2007 and the flat version in 2002 and 2010. By his own high standards you could say he has been quiet or positively dormant for the last six years.
Yet it was typical of his style that on a day when most people were playing ‘safe’, Booth adopted a more ambitious approach, being the only one of the 160 strong field to pick 16/1 winner Irish Cavalier in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
Meanwhile, my own pet cat Esther described by some as a heavyweight due to a partiality for snacking, went into overdrive after name theory runner Miss Estela matched Booth’s price at Ascot. Since I spend almost 50 Saturday mornings a year logging nap selections on sheets and computers, the least my household deserves is a team entry for the cat. Call me sad, but that’s the way it is. Charles Dickens and cat name references will be key to strategy, as Esther is named after the heroine of Bleak House. Swapping her ‘team’ name from Wards In Jarndyce to A Tail Of Two Cities is a temporary ploy with A Tail Of Two Kitties already recommended for the summer.
Early candidates for the weekend include Thank You Very Much, originally from the musical Scrooge, but now entered this week at Kelso. Or perhaps maybe Katachenko at Aintree so don’t say you weren’t warned...