The drying ground at Doncaster is just what Kay Tara Tara wants

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January 8

The most popular game to play for trainers over the Festive period was ‘Chase the Ground’, but only this week have underfoot conditions begun to improve and Doncaster, where we race on Wednesday, is a course which dries quicker than most.

We send three horses on the trip to Town Moor, and first up is Kay Tara Tara in the Mares Handicap Hurdle. Alan, who is hoping that Senior Citizen will enjoy his first taste of hunter chasing at Taunton today (3.30), despite likely to need this comeback after 11 months off, has always liked Kay Tara Tara.

He said:”The mares ‘ hurdle final at Newbury is the spring target for Kay Tara Tara, who ran creditably under a penalty at Fontwell last time, especially as the ground was more testing that she really wants.”

Already a winner of a bumper and a mares maiden hurdle, Kay Tara Tara has to give weight to her six opponents but still looks to have a solid chance.

In contrast, Betterforeveryone receives weight from his seven rivals in the three and a quarter mile novices’ handicap chase. He had run well to be placed on his first run over fences at Warwick, but he then got no further than the first over this course and distance. He was a consistent handicap handicap hurdler, so, hopefully, he’ll be in the thick of things at the business end this time.

Finally, that experienced amateur David Maxwell rides his own horse Off The Jury in the bumper. He was bought for £170,000 at Goffs last April, four days after winning an Irish point-to-point. He is a big scopey horse who has chaser written all over him, and he is the first one that Alan has trained for David, so, hopefully, Off The Jury will show his rider that he is worth the expensive purchase by making a promising start.

Switching to the more-established members of the Barbury team, Alan is looking forward to Saturday, when Edwardstone steps up to two and a half miles for the first time in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, while last season’s Midlands Grand National winner Major Dundee heads to Warwick for the Classic Chase, which has been his first main target this season. Alan has already won this stamina test  three times, with D’Argent, West End Rocker and Notachance.

Entries are already out for the Cheltenham Festival in March, and Alan is keeping his options open with Edwardstone, having put him in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair.

Alan’s mind might be a little clearer after Saturday, and Edwardstone has experienced mixed luck at Kempton, winning the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase impressively in 2021 but 12 months later parting company early on with Tom Cannon in the Desert Orchid Chase.

Favour And Fortune is a horse whom Alan has always had high up in his pecking order, and he was delighted with his recent second in the Formby Novices’ Hurdle, known as the Tolworth before it was switched from Sandown to Aintree. Favour And Fortune can cope with the very soft going that he encountered at Liverpool, but Alan thinks he’ll be more effective when conditions are less testing as he has such a gorgeous action, He’ll have another run before Alan decides whether t0 have a crack at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham or aim instead at handicaps.

However, Masaccio, who ran a solid fifth in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury 10 days ago, won’t be going to Cheltenham as Alan has set his sights on the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree.

Alan said:”Masaccio never travelled and wasn’t happy in the soft going at Newbury, and Tom Cannon felt he was beaten as early as the first flight. That surprised me somewhat, but it could be that the ground was just too deep, so all credit to him for sticking on so well up the home straight. He’ll have a break now, and we will work backwards from Aintree.”

Aintree rather than Cheltenham is also the plan for Paradias, who pleased Alan with his third to Jeriko du Reponet, now favourite for Cheltenham’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, at Newbury’s post Christmas meeting.

Alan said:”Paradias is a classy recruit from the Flat (rated 94) and he has schooled well from day one. He barely came off the bridle first time out at Lingfield, but I was worried he’d pull too hard in the small field in the introductory hurdle at Newbury, so we adopted more patient tactics and he settled well, which could be the making of him.

“Paradias again jumped really well, but he just found the testing ground stretching his stamina, having looked a big threat going to the last. He was just treading water in the last 100 yards, but that race will have brought him on more than did Lingfield and I was pleased that he didn’t hang, which might bring going right-handed at Kempton into the equation. Consequently, I might look at the Dovecote Hurdle there next month.”

Alan has shelved hurdling for the time being with Insanity after his disappointing run at Kempton. He has had a busy time on the level and will benefit from a holiday, so he’ll have a break and return to the Flat, where he could prove to be a decent handicapper.”

And of course we have not forgotten our summer superstar Trueshan, who celebrated his eighth birthday 10 days ago. Alan confirmed that all thoughts of sending Trueshan hurdling are off the table.

Alan said:”It wouldn’t be right when a horse has won £1.8m and still has decent Flat races in him. And I could not bear to take the risk. Trueshan is enjoying his six-week winter holiday with Jamie Magee and I am already looking forward to the 2024 Flat season with him.”