Here’s hoping the forecast monsoons miss Kempton this week

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February 7

Few tracks will have the word ‘good’ in their official going description this week-end, such is the frightening forecast of a deluge of rain all over the country, but Kempton on Friday could be one exception, news which will delight Alan.

He has declared Masaccio, Ernest Gray and Off The Jury for the Sunbury course, and, with Taunton winner The Doyen Chief, clearly much happier back on a right-hand track than he had been at Lingfield, the Barbury team continue in fine form – at least when they are not encountering a quagmire.

All horses are allowed to throw in the odd below-par performance, and Alan is adamant that we should put a line through the unplaced run of Masaccio in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury’s New Year meeting.

He said:”Tom (Cannon) felt he was beaten after the first flight, and he looked to be hating the soft ground, doing well to be beaten only nine lengths in such a hot race. He had been only touched off  a nose at the previous meeting at Newbury, and the winner went on to defy topweight at Sandown last Saturday, so his overall form stands up to the closest inspection.

“I’ve always thought of Masaccio as more an Aintree horse than one for Cheltenham, but he is entered for the Baring Bingham and the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdles, so we’ll reassess the situation after the week-end. I just hope Kempton avoid the rain.”

Alan also has high hopes for Ernest Gray in the novice chase. He said:”He won well at Southwell on only his second outing over fences, and he ought to again be competitive off a 5lb higher mark.”

Similarly, Off The Jury, who runs in the bumper is another one who is held in high esteem. Alan added;”He beat Ski Lodge in an Irish point-to-point last season before both of them came to Barbury, and that form looks pretty smart after Ski Lodge won at Chepstow last week.

“I was delighted how well Off The Jury shaped on his first run in a bumper at Doncaster last month. He was a bit keen, but that race will have taken the freshness out of him, though whatever he does as a bumper he looks an exciting prospects for novice hurdles next winter.”