Nicholls and Walsh make Sound Investment
Taunton hosts the first of three January meetings this afternoon, with the opener on the seven-race card, which carries a prize pot of £42,000, due off at 1.10pm.
With 58 horses declared and the weather set fair, another exciting afternoon of National Hunt racing looks to be in store for Westcountry racegoers.
The action gets under way with the Happy New Year Maiden Hurdle over two miles and three and a half furlongs, where Sound Investment – the mount of Ruby Walsh for Paul Nicholls – is likely to start as a short favourite.
The sternest challenges are likely to come from Bladoun, trained by David Pipe, and Best Boy Barney, from the Jeremy Scott yard on Exmoor.
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The Annual Membership Proves Great Value Beginners' Steeple Chase over half a furlong short of three miles is the first of three jumps races.
Emperor's Choice, trained by Venetia Williams, and Guess Again, ridden by Tom Scudamore, both have to be fancied to be in the frame.
The Castle Hotel in Taunton National Hunt Novices' Hurdle, over two miles one, is almost certain to see Saphir Du Rheu the lightest weight entry of the 14 declarations start as the favourite, but God Of The Kop, trained by Rebecca Curtis, is worth looking at.
In the most valuable race, the Hippychick Novices' Chase over two miles three, carrying £10,000 in prizes, the top weight Cantlow, with AP McCoy aboard, is expected to start as favourite, but Dare Me from the Williams yard has also got to be fancied here.
Two horses returning from long lay-offs take the eye in the Taunton's Richest Race Meeting On Saturday January 19 Handicap Hurdle over two miles one. Scoter Fontaine, ridden by McCoy for Rebecca Curtis and returning after more than ten months out, will probably go to post as favourite, but Nicky Henderson's Buckie Boy, back after 293 days' absence, is worth an each-way investment.
In the BBC Stargazing Live Handicap Chase over half a furlong short of three miles, Bennys Mist, for Williams, and Bellflower Boy, trained by Richard Newland, look strong contenders.
The afternoon concludes with the Come Racing for a Tenner on January 29 Handicap Hurdle where Jupiter Rex, for Williams, and Bernard, trained locally by Kevin Bishop, first and second in the same event on December 30, are likely to be in the frame again.
A courtesy coach departs from Taunton Railway Station an hour before the first race and returning from the course 30 minutes after the last.
For all ticket information or for further details, log on to www.tauntonracecourse.co.uk