Philip Hobbs bids to continue recent form at Ludlow on Wednesday
Somerset handler Philip Hobbs has his team in superb form currently, with the trainer operating at a healthy 25% strike rate with his runners in the last couple of weeks. He bids to maintain his excellent form before the Cheltenham Festival with a host of chances at Ludlow on Wednesday. Here at Racing tips, we assess all five horses below.
Mister Marbles (1:50 Mike & Belinda Birthday Maiden Hurdle)
Phil Hobb’s first runner on the Ludlow card comes in the shape of MISTER MARBLES, who certainly caught the eye when finishing second on the penultimate start at Taunton last December.
The six-year-old was unable to back that promising effort up last time out at Chepstow as he faded out of contention in the closing stages on heavy going.
Philip Hobbs’ charge returns after a wind operation and if leaving that underwhelming Chepstow run firmly behind, Mister Marbles would have leading claims on his Taunton runner-up effort and could be hard to get past.
Little River Bay (2:25 EBF Mares’ Novices’ Chase)
It could also prove to be a good afternoon for in-form jockey Tom O’Brien who will be confident of guiding LITTLE RIVER BAY to a third win over the larger obstacles this season.
The seven-year-old started this campaign with a taking success on chasing debut at Worcester before following up in impressive style at Uttoxeter by 8l in November.
However, uncharacteristic jumping errors cost Little River Bay on her penultimate start in Listed company at Warwick and despite finishing third last time out at Wincanton, Philip Hobbs’ mare was still 16l adrift of the eventual winner on that occasion.
There should be more to come on just her fifth chase start and although the seven-year-old has questions to answer, Little River Bay still holds leading claims and the application of cheekpieces could prove to be a wise move by connections.
Coolnaugh Haze (3:00 Michael Lumsden Memorial Handicap Hurdle)
Unexposed hurdler COOLNAUGH HAZE created a favourable impression last time out when sauntering to an impressive victory in a maiden hurdle at Plumpton back in January.
Despite having the run of the race that day, the four-year-old jumped and travelled well on the front end under jockey Tom O’Brien to run out a comfortable winner by 3l.
A mark of 111 could seriously underestimate Coolnaugh Haze on handicap debut on Wednesday and Philip Hobbs’ charge is certainly worth following with the prospect of more to come and could turn out to be a fairly useful performer as the season progresses.
Majestic Merlin (4:45 Farm & Garden Machinery Novices’ Handicap Chase)
Connections will be confident of landing this contest with MAJESTIC MERLIN who comes into this off the back of a promising third-placed finish at Taunton earlier this month over 2m2f.
The seven-year-old was having just his third start over the larger obstacles last time out and would have finished closer to the two in front if not for a couple of noticeable late jumping errors.
First-time cheekpieces and a 1lb lower rating should see Majestic Merlin go close in this modest handicap event and he should take some beating as he returns back down in trip.
Pulling Stumps (5:00 Bitterley Races 2nd April Maiden Hurdle)
Formerly with Mel Rowley, bumper winner PULLING STUMPS was slightly disappointing on stable and hurdling debut at Warwick last November, finishing seventh over 2m3f and jumping with little fluency or conviction.
However, the five-year-old stepped up markedly on that initial outing over timber when staying on well over 2m5f at Ludlow in January to finish third in maiden hurdle company. Philip Hobbs’ charge jumped significantly better on that occasion and certainly gave the impression that stamina trips will be very much his forte as this season progresses.
A step up to 3miles should really play to the strengths of Pulling Stumps on that recent Ludlow display and with improvement still to come, the five-year-old looks to hold obvious claims in a fairly modest contest.