Taunton Preview: Alto holds all the aces
Alto Des Mottes has shaped with bags of promise to finish runner-up in two starts over hurdles and looks a worthy favourite to go one better in the 2m 1f contest at Taunton today (2.05).
The gelding was a bumper winner in France before joining champion trainer Paul Nicholls and made a bright start over the obstacles for the Ditcheat handler when chasing home the well-regarded Zulu Oscar over course and distance.
Tha five-year-old stuck to the task well to be beaten 4 1/2 lengths on his first start for 342 days, and backed up that effort with a solid second of 16 to Days Of Heaven at Ludlow last time out.
Alto Des Mottes raced up with the pace throughout in the latter and held every chance when hitting two from home before being unable to quicken and beaten eight lengths.
The winner is a very useful sort who has since gone on to bolt up be eight lengths at Doncaster, and that form sets a high standard in this line-up.
Another plus is that Nicholls has a tremendous strike rate of just under 37% with his runners at the venue in the past 12 months, and with further improvement assured this looks a golden opportunity for Alto Des Mottes to open his account.
In the 2m 1f handicap hurdle (3.45), Ar Mad could have got in lightly after a promising first run for trainer Gary Moore.
The gelding had three runs in France before joining Moore and ran well on the last of those when third at Nantes.
The five-year-old was sent off the 8-1 second favourite on debut for new connections over 2m 3f at Newbury, and although eventually beaten 18 lengths into second behind Sugar Baron ran far better than that indicates.
Ar Mad raced far too keenly and and pulled his way to the front after the second flight to go clear.
It seemed only a matter of time before the son of Toger Groom would fall into a hole and be swallowed up by the chasing pack, but Ar Mad only got headed approaching the final flight after clouting the second last.
In the circumstances it was a remarkable effort and one which suggested Ar Mad had a big engine and would be more than capable of winning races once learning to settle.
An opening handicap mark of 117 certainly looks exploitable if that proves to be the case, and the drop back to 2m 1f this afternoon is sure to suit.
1.35: Spending Time
2.05: Alto Des Mottes (NAP)
2.35: Civil War
3.10: Mr Mcgregor
3.45: Ar Mad (NB)
4.20: Moonlight Maggie
4.50: Clouds Of Mist