Premier meeting of season at Plumpton this Sunday

THE premier meeting of the season at Plumpton is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and features the Sussex National which is supported by a novice chase qualifier for the Cheltenham bonus that has some classy five day entries, writes Jason Hall.

Add to that a high number of entries for the rest of the card and everything is shaping up to provide racegoers with some highly competitive racing.

The freezing weather conditions that have forced so many abandonments in recent weeks appear to be abating and Mark Cornford, the clerk of the course at Plumpton, is pleased with the forecast for the rest of the week and confident racing will take place assuming it’s accuracy.

“I would describe the ground as good to soft, soft in places and with dry weather forecast from now until Sunday it shouldn’t get any worse than that.

“There is the possibility of a slight frost for Saturday night and we will be taking the precaution of laying covers on the take off and landing sides of the fences as we usually do.”

The Sussex National has attracted an excellent entry at the five day stage and amongst them are two previous winners of the race one of which is Master Overseer who took the victory in a pulsating finish last year.

A call to the Pipe yard suggested that he is likely to return for another shot this time around but no firm decision would be taken until today about which of the Pipe team’s three entries would make the journey.

One horse that is certain to take his chance in the race is the Neil King trained Noble Bily.

The nine-year-old won last year’s Kent National and will be suited by the conditions of Sunday’s event.

The trainer commented: “Softer ground will suit him well.

“He had a few entries in races that were lost to the weather recently but this looks like it will suit.

“He hasn’t missed a day’s work despite the weather.”

Noble Bily should go well off of what is likely to be a light weight at a course where his trainer has an excellent strike rate.

Dark horse of the race is Hunters Ploy from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard.

Runners from this stable always command respect in this type of event and they have a good record at Plumpton.

However, Hunters Ploy jumped very poorly on heavy ground at Carlisle on his seasonal return.

He may prove to be on a very good mark but big questions about his ability to handle conditions temper enthusiasm.

There are a whole host of runners whose form ties in closely together and they include Martys Mission, Son Histoire, Justabout and Minella Boys.

They give the race depth and a very competitive edge.

It will not be easy but Noble Bily has excellent credentials and should give punters a good run for their money.

The classiest event on the card is sure to be the novice chase, a qualifier for the £60,000 Cheltenham Bonus.

Medermit won here at the last meeting but also has an entry at Cheltenham a day earlier.

If he turns up he will obviously be a major player but Nicky Henderson is very likely to send one of his three five-day entries and his selected will ensure the race is no walkover.

One of those is Bellvano who is a prospect of great potential and his presence would probably ensure that the Sports Personality of the Year AP McCoy will be here to ride him.

It looks all set to be a great day’s racing and the first race is at 12.35pm.