The current hot streak of form enjoyed by horses from Paul Webber’s yard at Cropredy Lawn extended to Towcester’s opening fixture of its 2017/18 season and could prevail to Kempton Park this Sunday.
Copperfacejack had been a runner-up in seven of his previous nine outings but rallied convincingly under champion jockey Richard Johnson after being headed by Dontminddboys at the bottom of the hill.
The 5/2 favourite was scoring in the colours of owner Rob Barnett, who had twice enjoyed previous success at the Northamptonshire track with the Webber-trained Halucha in 2011 and 2013.
Copperfacejack cut out practically all of the running but Webber said: “It wasn’t exactly a plan. When you haven’t won with the horse yourself you can’t tell Richard Johnson how to ride it! Copperfacejack has gone up 8lbs as a result and may run at Taunton on November 1.”
Webber has around 40 horses for the winter at his stables on the border with Oxfordshire, while admitting he is slightly down on historic numbers.
However, judging by the way New Agenda scooted up at Huntingdon the previous week to initiate a double completed by Cosmic Diamond (the yard’s other runner Breath Of Blighty was fourth on that card), Webber can anticipate a far more productive time than 12 months ago.
Barring a deluge of rain, New Agenda should run at Kempton on Sunday in the Listed hurdle race in which he finished a runner-up a year ago.
The trainer explained: “He used to be a bit of a bull in a china shop but is now much more settled. He needs to go right handed on decent ground but I think he will be a much better horse over fences.”
The horse’s style of action means comparisons have been drawn with former yard favourite Australia Day, the grey which broke the track record at Kempton by six seconds as an 11-year-old!
Joining New Agenda in the horse box to Sunbury-on-Thames on Sunday are likely to be Royal Debutante, Circuit Court and Breath Of Blighty, depending on favourable ground.
The 120-rated Presenting mare Royal Debutante switches her attention to fences after a novice hurdle season which only saw her once finish out of the first three in six runs, when the ground was too soft at Sandown. The six-year-old is entered in a novices’ limited handicap chase and with a classy pedigree looks one of the most exciting prospects in the yard.
Breath Of Blighty shows plenty of talent at home and while this has not always been replicated on a racecourse, jockey Tom O’Brien believed the 2m 3f distance of his Huntingdon was about right and with similar conditions on Sunday, he could go well.
Circuit Court was a point to point winner in Ireland and while the six-year-old looks a natural for fences under Rules, he is an intended runner in a 2m 5f novices’ hurdle.
Summing up the yard’s current strength, Webber remarked: “We have a much more mature bunch this time round which should stand us in good stead.”
Last season’s misfortunes were hardly helped by an injury to stable star Gwafa, the winner of what was formerly known as the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in 2016, who has also been campaigned abroad.
Gwafa was injured at Kempton at this time last year with the trainer saying: “Gwafa is now back cantering and we hope to have him back to run at Kempton for the Christmas Hurdle. That track suits him well and we hope to have the best of the ground.”
An intriguing crop of potential winners at Cropredy Lawn also include Thecorruptor which was due to run at Uttoxeter on Thursday while Cosmic Diamond could go to Exeter next Tuesday.
You could understand any reluctance on Webber’s part to fully expose Miss Tongabezi to the cut and thrust of National Hunt racing given the fact she represents a fifth generation to come from Cropredy Lawn. From the same line of Auntie Dot, still one of the last mares to be placed in a Grand National (Seagram’s race in 1991), the eight-year-old by Overbury is poised to tackle fences after a prourd career over timber.
Webber said: “She stands only 15.3 hands but believes she is 16.3. She is very tough and determined and has the attitude and belief to jump fences.”