Mashaari, a winner at York in October for John Gosden before changing hands at Newmarket Sales for a whopping 160,000 guineas and moving to North Yorkshire, makes his eagerly-awaited hurdling debut at Market Rasen this afternoon.
Now trained by Brian Ellison for Phil Martin, the four-year-old will be partnered by Danny Cook in the opening Betfred Lotto Juvenile Hurdle.
Mashaari’s Knavesmire victory, achieved in the hands of Paul Hanagan, was gained by a slender margin over Malcolm Jefferson’s versatile Cape Tribulation, better known as a high-class hurdler and a notable winner at last season’s Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.
Ellison has been pleased with Mashaari since introducing him to hurdles at home and has high hopes this is a horse who will end up at the Cheltenham Festival in March as a leading contender for major honours.
First things first, however, and he needs to pass his entrance exam over jumps by making a successful bow. A strong stayer on the Flat, his stamina will stand him in good stead this afternoon, provided his jumping holds up on his initial outing.
It promises to be exciting stuff and Mashaari has the chance of using this race as a launchpad to much bigger and better things.
Whatever the fate of Mashaari, owner Martin has another good chance on the Market Rasen card, courtesy of Honest John in the Worthington’s Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Trained by Steve Gollings, the gelding is on a hat-trick mission after victories at Huntingdon and Doncaster. This race comes pretty quickly after his Town Moor success last Friday, but he is taken to defy a 7lb penalty.
Jefferson has a high opinion of King Of The Wolds, who bids for his first jumping win in the Betfred Novices’ Hurdle.
Successful in a bumper last term, King Of The Wolds has finished second at Newcastle and third at Carlisle this term. He can make it third time lucky under Denis O’Regan.
Riding in tremendous form, O’Regan also teams up with David O’Meara, who runs War Poet in the Magner Golden Draught Handicap Hurdle. In the frame on all of his three hurdle starts last season, War Poet, a decent handicapper on the Flat, can surely win races over jumps, especially now he is handicapped. He is awarded the nap vote.
At Lingfield tomorrow, Sakhee’s Rose is napped to follow up her recent Kempton win in the Limpio Facilities Management Nursery.
Roger Charlton’s speedy filly won with a little bit to spare by half-a-length last time. She is fancied to defy a 5lb rise with George Baker again on board.
I See You can come out on top in the 32Red Supports The Geraint Jones Benefit Handicap.
The three-year-old, trained by Peter Makin, is overdue a win, having finished second here and at Nottingham on his last two starts. With Jimmy Fortune in the saddle, I See You can go one better this time.
Natasha Eaton got a good tune out of Strike Force on this course last week and Alison Hutchinson’s gelding is selected to oblige once more in the £32 Bonus At 32Red.com Handicap. A 6lb penalty may not be enough to halt him in his double bid.
Market Rasen today
12.20 Mashaari, 12.50 Oscatara, 1.20 King Of The Wolds, 1.50 Bishophill Jack, 2.20 Honest John, 2.50 War Poet, 3.20 Quite Sparky.
Today’s other meetings: Leicester, Lingfield and Wincanton.
11.50 Sakhee’s Rose (NAP), 12.20 Nur Jahan, 12.50 Familiarity, 1.20 Tornado Force, 1.55 Honour, 2.30 Summer Sun, 3.05 I See You, 3.40 Strike Force.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Exeter and Sandown.