Hopefully it will be all about a ‘Bear Hug’ tonight!

Asean Legend meets median time-handicap requirement in division one of a Novice Stakes over seven furlongs of Kempton tonight when the obligatory lavish eight-race Winter ‘Wednesday-nighter’ affords a couple of half-decent wagers for two-year-old aficionados like myself. Weather conditions are grim and so the usual sparse crowd might be cuddled up in the dining room!

I’ll make no bones about it there some trainers are firm ‘favourites’ for backing horses but Hugo Palmer has seldom been lucky for this columnist and yet Asean Legend, second in both outings, is clear best-in under Cieren Fallon and justifies support at 2/1 or better. Sentiment doesn’t cloud my purpose, time-figures rule.  

Palmer will also be fancying his chances with once-raced Western Writer in division two but there are several hellish expensive super-bred newcomers in opposition and a couple are strongly-fancied; Fallon’s Qatar-owned Andrew Balding-trained mount Nobel cost 825000 guineas and Flag Of Truth 170000 guineas!

Earlier Big Bear Hug is worth chancing (and following!) in the opening 14-runner class 5 Novice Stakes over seven furlongs given the twice-raced Belardo filly improved considerably on her Lingfield debut effort, when fourth (of 16!) to Shaara under Jack Mitchell over the straight Yarmouth mile seven weeks ago, beaten only three lengths in a class 4; Adam West’s charge was 100/!!

Seven rivals are un-raced and the rest have limited eight-race form between them which is why I’ve implemented the experience factor into my process of elimination; in addition, as often mentioned, so many owners/trainers are loath to win first up. Never forget it becomes extremely difficult to place penalised juveniles and over this distance, for example, such an impost equates to three and a half lengths!

Wonder what price Big Bear Hug will be under Rav Havlin who was aboard at the Surrey venue.

Rest of the AWR programme looks difficult but Nicky Henderson’s Lilly Pedlar shouldn’t be extended to double her career tally in a Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over two miles of ‘soft’ Lingfield; don’t oppose Nico de Boinville’s mount.

It’s a massive International night in Hong Kong where so many World class jockeys will be in action, they include Hollie Doyle and fiance Tom Marquand, and I’ll be glued to proceedings to watch Pyledriver and Martin Dwyer.  

Selections, Lingfield, 1.00 Lilly Pedlar; Kempton, 4.00 Big Bear Hug (e.w); 5.30 Asean Legend.

 Jeffrey Ross, horse-racing correspondent for WMN since 1983 when winning the most prestigious racing journalist award, Sporting Life Naps Table, before winning it a record number of six times collectively in the Racing Post, the current ‘trade’ paper, including 2019