The first of Newbury’s two-day Winter Festival comes under orders on Friday and the ITV 3 cameras cover four races.
A Grade 2 novice chase over 2m 4f. Just three runners but all are talented. That said, I’ll be massively disappointed if FIDDLERONTHEROOF is not by far the best. The former Grade 1 winning hurdler was beaten on chase debut at Ffos Las, but came good last time at Exeter and I’m sure there is more to come. Hard to beat for Robbie Power and trainer Colin Tizzard.
A handicap chase over 2m 4f. I’m not sure any of the leading contenders in the betting are well handicapped, although I favour Oldgrangewood among them. With that in mind I’ll take a complete chance at long odds with COUNT MERIBEL, who unseated on seasonal debut at Ascot. This time last year my selection was a decent sixth behind Happy Diva in the now Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, and he can race off 4lb lower now. He has the ability to go well for Nigel Twiston-Davies and Mark Grant. I’ll have a few quid on each-way.
It’s Long Distance Hurdle time now with a Grade 2 over 3m. This is a cracking renewal. There’s every chance that the former Stayers Hurdle champ PAISLEY PARK will need the run and of course there is a doubt about him after a lack-lustre effort at Cheltenham in the Stayers’ Hurdle. That all said, he’s by far the best of these in my book and if anywhere near right for Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman will take all the beating. I’ll keep the faith.
Finally a handicap hurdle over 3m. Lots of in-form horses to consider. There’s just a chance LIL ROCKERFELLA can roll back the years for Neil King and Harry Cobden. He was once rated 164 and is now down to 145. He still retains plenty of ability and while he has a big weight to carry in 11st 12lb he might just be hard to catch. It might be my heart ruling my head but I’ll back him each-way in hope he can return to winning ways.
You hear me Paddy?
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