Race season opens at Les Landes on Monday

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Run over seven furlongs, it is a level-weight battle favouring horses at the top of the handicap.

Although Des Ahier-owned and Stephen Arthur-trained Catcando ran only intermittently last season because of injury, he still won a race and is rated 15 lb higher than any other horse in the 11-runner contest.

The main danger to Catcando is Phyllis Somers’ Perfect Portrait, a winner several times last season, and Amanda Simmons’ Missus Links, trained by Colin McCready, although Tony Tie was also rated highly by the bookies and given a price of 7-4.

A little improvement from Missus Links is all that is needed to trouble the two established principals.

It is difficult to see any of the others being involved in the major placings, although many have chances of filling third slot, should anything be amiss with the more fancied runners.

New Jersey Race Club president Robin Rumboll and Mrs Rumboll will undoubtedly have much pleasure in watching their hurdler Search and Destroy take part in the first race of the day.

The horse is not without a chance in the Handicap Hurdle, which is sponsored by Peter and Judy Bailey.

Trained by Alyson Malzard, Search and Destroy won in the UK during the 2004-5 jumps season.

Malzard also trains the syndicate-owned Rose Sainte, a winner in France last season.

At the top the handicap, however, is Ian Shenkin’s Tevere, who is one of the best hurdlers to run in Jersey in recent years.

At the bottom of the handicap are Wondersobright and Shinbang.

The latter was very disappointing last year but is now about two stone lower in the handicap than he was last Easter, and if he reproduces his French form of three years ago, could make amends.

The Channel Islands Racing and Hunt Club Handicap has only four runners, two of whom are first-time runners in Jersey.

Cronkyvoddy is Jane Edgar’s and Johnny Mercier’s replacement for Palala River, but is still a maiden.

Des Ahier’s Silver Silence won in Ireland in 2004 in far superior company than he faces here, but since then his form has tailed off.

Hakam and See More Snow, both regular performers in the Island, may not be quite good enough to match Silver Silence’s class with only a 5 lb weight advantage.

Regular racegoers will be aware of the death of Miss Joan May but will at the same time be heartened that this great supporter’s executors chose to retain horses in training with Joan Le Brocq.

Hakam, mentioned above, is the first runner, the other two being Persian Khanoom and Martins Sunset later in the afternoon.

The Supporters’ Handicap, over a mile and a quarter, fields another 11 runners.

Last year’s winner, Mike Weaver’s Off Minor, is again in the line-up but this year is top of the handicap on a mark 12 lb lighter than last Easter Monday and has a stiff task to follow up with a back-to-back win.

The partnership-owned Khuzdar won four races last year and is in receipt of 15 lb from Off Minor.

Arch rivals Minnie’s Mystery and Crossways are also sure to be in the shake-up, and this may turn out to be the closest finish of the afternoon.

The late Joan May had agreed to sponsor the last race of the afternoon prior to her death, and it would be fitting if Martins Sunset, running in her colours, won this event.

He is not without a chance in this field of nine.

Bunny Roberts’ Flaunting It is sure to have improved, as she is now a four-year-old.

Snow Lark and Cheeky Girl should be in the frame, while Return of the Fairy, the bottom weight, should not be forgotten having won two races last year.

Les Landes may not be Aintree, Cheltenham or Epsom, but the enthusiasm of all those directly involved is every bit as great, and the racing public should enjoy an afternoon of competitive action.

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