Not exactly ‘Rock’-solid but a serious contender worth supporting.

Leopolds Rock did enough on his flat debut over a similar distance/surface at Newcastle back in October to be considered an each-way player for a ten-runner Novice Stakes over twelve furlongs of Southwell tapeta this afternoon; it’s another shallow race which I’ve delved into deeply, based on ‘process of elimination’ process.

Subsequently trainer Paul Kirby raced Leopolds Rock over half a mile less but it didn’t work out and yet we might benefit because plenty of serious punters will dismiss this long-standing Rock Of Gibraltar maiden, which has competed disappointingly seven times under National Hunt rules; I’m not one of them, especially when able to pick up on a scent!

On the back of his useless NH efforts Leopolds Rock was a 50/1 chance when third to heavily-backed favourites Najeeba and Desert Emperor last October; top Northern jockey Kevin Stott got a real tune out of the five-year-old which stayed on well to be beaten less than four lengths. Why Paul decided on the straight mile, back at Gosforth Park ten weeks later, is unknown, perhaps jockey Dale Swift advised him thus. He’ll be aboard again.

Scanning the opposition, which contains five newcomers and a couple which haven’t raced for a long time, it became obvious only Early Morning Dew and Flying Instructor can be considered possible form rivals and so Leopolds Rock is worth chancing.

Rest of the card is all-handicap and so focus is switched to hurdling fixtures at Chepstow and indeed ‘good to soft’ Newcastle where ex-champion jockey Brian Hughes is an interesting booking for long-time absentee Onward Route in a twelve-runner Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles. A wind operation is the reason.

Onward Route is one of two Rebecca Menzies ‘decs’ and Hughes rode Ritson when he achieved a career-best time-handicap at Wetherby in October.

No surprise if they dominate; perhaps this is a ploy and consistent, hitherto luckless Ritson will be the stable ‘buzzer’ under proficient Connor O’Farrell, a forecast 10/1 chance. It’s the sort of ‘smokescreen’ tactic I used on a couple of occasions, with resounding rewards!

At the popular South Western venue Eureka Creek must be ‘on the premises’ in the Mares’ Maiden Hurdle over three miles of ‘soft’  following withdrawal of my original fancy Don’t Rightly Know; it leaves the way open and indeed clearer for this option

Form is solid and, most importantly, has been confirmed.

Selections, Exeter, 1.40 Eureka Creek (e.w); Newcastle, 2.25 Ritson (e.w); Southwell, 5.50 Leopolds Rock (e.w). 

 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