After another winner on Tuesday, we’re sticking to the Jumps – specifically Wetherby’s seven-race card – for Wednesday’s NAP.
One trainer who’s started the National Hunt season in good form is Olly Murphy. As I write this, he’s operating at a 22% strike rate having saddled five winners from 22 runners in the last 14 days.
We’ve already seen a handful of his better prospects this term, and at Wetherby on Wednesday we get to see another – namely Ukantango.
The six-year-old, who was bought for £68,000 in late 2021 after finishing a close third in a PTP won by Willie Mullins’ now 146-rated, Grade 2-winning novice hurdler Nick Rockett, made a winning start to life under rules when landing a bumper at Stratford in March last year.
He followed that up with a facile debut over hurdles at Aintree in May, before remaining unbeaten when taking a decent novice contest at Wetherby in October, following a 168-day break.
Such is the regard he’s clearly held in at Warren Chase Stables, the gelding was then tried in the G2 Supreme Trial at Cheltenham a month later, finishing a highly-respectable second to subsequent Grade 3 winner Fennor Cross.
It didn’t go to plan when he rather ambitiously contested the G1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown in the new year, but that was not only a step too far but also on deep ground, which I don’t think this horse likes at all. Conditions also excuse his effort the last time we saw him, at the Grand National Festival.
He now makes his debut over fences, in a 0-135 handicap off a mark of just 124 – four pounds lower than at Aintree. A generous piece of handicapping, if I do say so myself. I suspect he’ll prove a fair bit better than that this season.
He’ll enjoy this return to a sounder surface and I’m confident he’ll be fit and raring to go, as his form after a break of over 100 days reads 311.
There’s a few dangers in this field of 13, but frankly they’re not all that inspiring and don’t appear to have even nearly as much scope as the selection, who’s an attractive price here.