Middleham trainer Phil Kirby travels 660 miles for winning opportunity with Pass Muster

Miles don’t matter when there’s the chance of a winning opportunity – especially when the handicapper is hot on your heels.

A perfect example is illustrated today when Pass Muster, trained by Phil Kirby at Middleham in North Yorkshire, makes the long haul to Exeter, which amounts to a round trip of 660 miles.

Last week, Pass Muster was performing at the other end of Britain when winning easily at Musselburgh. The handicapper has taken his revenge for that 11-length success by raising the gelding’s rating from 87 to 105, thereby forcing the hand of Kirby to run him quickly before his new mark takes effect tomorrow.

The outcome is that Pass Muster runs off his old mark – plus a 7lb penalty – in this afternoon’s Foot Anstey Handicap Hurdle, which makes him 11lb better off than he will be in future races.

It is to be hoped that Kirby’s enterprise is rewarded and that Pass Muster can make his long trek south well worthwhile.

Paul Nicholls is a frequent winner at Exeter and today’s meeting is unlikely to come and go without him getting his name on the scoreboard.

Nicholls saddles nap selection Caid Du Berlais in the Harry Dutfield Memorial Novices’ Chase and this recent Down Royal runner-up promises to be hard to beat.

Foggy’s Wall can be another Nicholls-trained winner in the EBF Stallions Novices’ Hurdle.

The five-year-old won a brace of bumpers at Wincanton last season and looks the type to make a name for himself over hurdles.

Jonjo O’Neill’s Whistling Senator (2.05), narrowly beaten at Warwick last time, and the useful Bally Legend (3.15) are two others to note.

The £30,000 Future Stars Intermediate Chase is the feature event at Sandown and, although there are only three runners, it promises to be a fascinating event. All eyes will be on Harry Topper, who became familiar with Yorkshire racegoers when winning the prestigious Charlie Hall Chase on his reappearance at Wetherby last month. There is no doubt that Kim Bailey’s charge is a talented horse, but his jumping can be a little iffy at times and it may be that he will be outjumped by Rolling Aces, who represents the Nicholls stable.

A good winner in Grade 2 company at Down Royal last time, Rolling Aces looks a horse with a bright future.

Nicholls also runs Saint Roque, unbeaten in four races, in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and a bold bid is anticpated. But this looks a classy race and, while O’Neill’s Oscar Fortune, a dual-winner this season, commands respect, so too does Beat That from the Nicky Henderson yard.

The five-year-old looked very smart when winning at Ascot last month and is expected to have enough ability to cope with this tougher opposition.

Violet Dancer, who swept ten lengths clear on his jumping debut at Plumpton, will not be short of supporters in the Headmasters Juvenile Hurdle, while Top Dancer will be equally popular with punters in the Coldunell Amateur Jockeys’ Association Handicap Chase. The six-year-old was a decisive winner at Newbury last week and looks capable of defying a penalty. The accomplished Jamie Codd again takes the ride.


Racing selections

Exeter today 12.25 Sylvan Legend, 12.55 Pass Muster, 1.30 Caid Du Berlais (NAP), 2.05 Whistling Senator, 2.40 Foggy’s Wall, 3.15 Bally Legend, 3.45 Adeupas d’Ycy.

Sandown today 12.35 Violet Dancer, 1.10 Doctor Foxtrot, 1.45 Beat That, 2.20 Rolling Aces, 2.55 Top Dancer, 3.25 Proud Times.

Today’s other meetings: Wolverhampton and Lingfield.

Tomorrow’s meetings: Aintree, Chepstow, Sandown, Wetherby and Wolverhampton.

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