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Monday, 10 October 2016

5.15 Bath, Wednesday, October 12

There’s no shortage of runners at Bath on Wednesday and the Culloden Handicap (5.15), a 0-70 contest run over 1 mile 3 furlongs and 144 yards, looks the sort of race in which we should have an interest.

The aptly-named Never To Be hasn’t won for three seasons, but showed signs of a revival when dropped into 0-60 company at Ffos Las last month and – notwithstanding a sole, unsuccessful effort over hurdles at Ludlow last April – attempts a distance beyond an extended mile for the first time. Trainer Nikki Evans switches first-time blinkers for the first-time visor the Thewayyouare gelding wore at Ffos Las and, if lasting home, he must have a squeak, especially with Callum Shepherd taking off a useful 5lb.

Being by Medicean out of a Generous mare, Free Passage was always likely to be suited by middle distances and, indeed, he did find significant improvement when stepped up to 1 mile 2 furlongs at Windsor in August. After two solid placed efforts in this grade, he broke a blood vessel when stepped down in class and up in distance at Ffos Las last time and whether or not he really qualifies as an ‘outsider’ depends on how the bookmakers react to a horse that finished last of eight, beaten 76 lengths, behind Prospectus in a race where the favourite was a ten-race maiden, albeit with a valid excuse.

Highland Code is getting any younger and isn’t really in any form, but the same comments would have applied when he positively hacked up, off today’s mark, in an amateur riders’ race, over this sort of distance, at Doncaster early last season, so it’s dangerous to write him off completely. He makes just his second start after nearly a year off and, having been relatively lightly raced on the Flat, may still be capable of a forward showing.

Selections: Bath 5.15 Never To Be, Free Passage, Highland Code

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