TAUNTON Racecourse holds their first meeting of the season on Thursday, with the ground currently good, and the track in excellent condition, writes Martin Higgs. 

There is a bumper 174 entries for our 6 races which commence at 12:40. With several races over-populated there is every chance we will end up with a 7th race which will be added to the end of the day. 

For those of you looking to utilise our courtesy coach service, it will depart from outside platform 5 of Taunton Railway Station 90 minutes before our first race time and return from the course 30 minutes after the start of the last. 

We begin proceedings with the Jeremy Parsons 60th Birthday Celebration Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle and Luna Dora could run well for the Tom Symonds team.  Next up is the Racing To School Bridgwater College Novices' Hurdle, Paul Nicholls has 4 entered with Matterhorn looking interesting for owner Mrs Johnny de la Hey who has already experienced success this season with some very nice types, Captain Teague in particular. 

We follow that with the Colin Crawley Mad As A Hatter Novices' Handicap Chase and last time out winner Dr T J Eckleburg could be the key for trainer Evan Williams and owner Janet Davies, who is looking for her 100th win as an owner.  

We move on to the Age UK Somerset 75th Anniversary Maiden Hurdle - Geezer Rockstar (pictured) won a National Hunt Flat race with us in April this year, has enjoyed a Summer’s break and makes his hurdle’s debut here for Harry Fry and his enthusiastic owners. 

Time for our second Chase, The Save Our Sport Sign the Petition Handicap, over just short of 3 miles.  It will be a test and with 33 entries it looks sure to provide a full field.  The Jeremy Scott trained Leissieres Express stayed on nicely at Wincanton last time over 2½ miles and this longer trip looks sure to suit, he could be the one. 

Finally the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Handicap Hurdle and Gary Moore has Parikarma entered right at the top of the weights, she won with us in February, has had a Summer break and a recent spin on the flat, so should be spot on for this.

 We are delighted to get going and early bird tickets are available on our website www.taunton-racecourse.co.uk or you can turn up on the day and pay on the gate.

 You could always head North after racing at Taunton on Thursday and go to Cheltenham on Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday (Sunday is free for Taunton members) for their November meeting.   It is a mouth-watering affair for the racing enthusiast and will be sure to highlight some horses for the Festival next March. 

I can’t wait and I’m looking forward to seeing Nemean Lion in the Greatwood Hurdle.  He won the Welsh Champion Hurdle last month and the trainer, Kerry Lee, could have a rapidly improving horse on her hands. I am not overly concerned if the ground ends up soft as he was runner up in a Group 2 on the flat in France on heavy. He is currently a best priced 7/1 and looks fantastic each-way value.

This week’s Horse To Follow is Altobelli (Harry Fry)..he recently finished 2nd in a Handicap Hurdle at Ascot behind a very useful prospect and was over 8 lengths clear of the 3rd horse.  He only went up 1lb in the handicap for that run, of which I am sure connections will have been delighted.  He should be winning very soon.. 

Good luck everyone and enjoy what is a fantastic time of year for us National Hunt racing enthusiasts..see you at Taunton