Healthy audience expected for Towcester’s first fixture of the year

Wicklewood forges clear under Tom Cannon to win for the fourth time at Towcester on March 23 and could bid for a fifth win in Northamptonshire today (Thursday)
Wicklewood forges clear under Tom Cannon to win for the fourth time at Towcester on March 23 and could bid for a fifth win in Northamptonshire today (Thursday)
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Towcester stages the first of 10 National Hunt fixtures it will host in 2016 when the action gets underway at 1pm today (Thursday).

Thursdays will be the optimum day for action in Northamptonshire during 2016 as six of the dates fall on them, but if recent evidence is anything to go by a midweek afternoon at the races will do nothing to deter a healthy audience enjoying free admission.

Possibly due to the absence of a 3m handicap chase on the six-race card, there are fewer popular course specialists entered to run than usual which could be a good enough reason to side with Wicklewood in the opening 2m 1/2f Braddon Handicap Chase.

The 10-year-old who is trained by Mark Gillard in Dorset, has run just once and this in a hurdle contest at Taunton since last June.

However he is clearly being campaigned with a Towcester chase success in mind as all four of his career wins have arrived at the Northamptonshire track over the bigger obstacles.

Jockey Tom Cannon teamed up with Wicklewood to spring a 12/1 surprise here last March and while three of the horse’s wins have come over a longer distance, the forecast heavy ground should bring his stamina into play over a shorter trip.

Upwardly mobile lady trainer Kerry Lee could a make an appearance in the winner’s enclosure and even has hopes of a double courtesy of Aces Over Eights and Goldray.

Lee, who has taken over the trainer’s licence from her father Richard this season, has quickly made an impression in her own right and enjoyed a Saturday winner with Bishops Road at Sandown at the weekend and has Mountainous attempting to win a second Welsh Grand National this Saturday in the re-scheduled gruelling slog at Chepstow.

Aces Over Eights is the regular mount of Towcester specialist jockey Charlie Poste and could take his chance in the 2m Milton Keynes Handicap Hurdle while Goldray has been given a choice of engagements in the mares’ maiden hurdle and the novices’ handicap chase.

Meanwhile, the exploits of Venetia Williams are well known to Towcester regulars and it would surprise no-one if she emerged from the 2m 4f handicap chase with the winner after making three of the initial 12 entries: Rosa Fleet, John Louis and King Of Glory.