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We’ll hopefully have have a bumper card on ITV on Saturday but all three tracks at Kempton, Chepstow and Wincanton face 8am checks* to see if they can go ahead.
There’s some really competitive action ahead so I’ve picked the best of them. Hopefully, there’s a few tasty ones in there.
An open contest where a lot have leading chances. Smarty Wild is a fair price and has run some good runs in competitive races over hurdles to his name for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs. He could still be reasonably handicapped over fences and stayed on well from the back last time at Ascot.
Jane William’s Erick Le Rouge has a good record at Kempton and is respected but my selection is Espoir de Romay on the back of his Huntingdon win and a very good second to the improving Royale Pagaille at Haydock last time.
Colin Tizzard’s Slate House is a very interesting runner. He got bogged down at Cheltenham in the Paddy Power Gold Cup but he has since had a wind operation. He did win a Grade 1 contest at this track over this trip. Nick Williams’ Coo Star Sivola was well supported before his run in the Beecher Chase at Aintree but unseated his rider at the sixth fence. He won at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 but is still 5lbs higher in the handicap since then.
The one that appeals to me is Kim Bailey’s Two For Gold. He ran in the Ladbroke Chase at Newbury but never really looked like a dour stayer to me and the 3m 2f trip didn’t suit. He did win a novice chase at Warwick over Saturday’s trip of three miles on soft ground though. Kempton is a very similar track to Warwick, even if it is the other way around.
Younevercall ran a blinder in the Long Walk Hurdle when fourth to Paisley Park and Thyme Hill but prior to that, was narrowly beaten over course and distance in a handicap.
Summerville Boy was not beaten that far in a stop-start International Hurdle at Cheltenham. At this stage of his career the former Supreme Novice Hurdler needs farther than Saturday’s 2m 5f but some of his form is top-notch. He has to give weight to McFabulous and Younevercall and that makes life difficult but should run his usual game race. Thomas Darby beat Song for Someone at Ascot in a Grade 3 contest last year but finished behind Summerville Boy at Aintree. His trainer Olly Murphy is in better form now though.
It all points to McFabulous who put up a very impressive performance in a handicap at this venue last year and will be tough to beat. Younevercall can give him most to do.
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Imperial Aura is many people’s idea of the likely Ryanair Chase winner at the Cheltenham Festival. He has form going right-handed, he ticks a lot of boxes and sets a really good standard.
Riders Onthe Storm was very fresh when running at Cheltenham in November and burnt himself out by being too keen. He will be much happier at this 2m 4f trip and shouldn’t be underestimated. Imperial Aura is the one they all have to beat though.
The Listed Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle is ultra competitive as always and Paddy’s doing us a solid by paying the first 6 places.
Everglow won very nicely at Ascot recently and prior to that had finished second to Stargate at Chepstow. He’ll handle conditions but does lack experience and that would be a concern with 19 other rivals lining up. He is still well handicapped off his mark of 126 though.
Shang Tang hit the deck at Wincanton last time but before that he won at Ascot and was placed at Wetherby in a race that has worked out really well. He’s improving and could still have scope with his handicap mark of 130, while the Lucy Wadham-trained The White Mouse won nicely at Cheltenham last time and is another for the short-list.
However, I’ll side with Hunters Call at an attractive each-way price. He won a Grade 3 contest on his first start for Olly Murphy three years ago, beating Silver Streak. His last run at Aintree was a solid effort and probably arrived too soon. He travels well in his races and has experience of the big-field events.
Chepstow 15:10 – Secret Repreive
The re-arranged Welsh Grand National takes centre-stage at Chepstow (if it goes ahead) and a few of these like Truckers Lodge – who was placed in this in 2019 – is a lot higher in the ratings and meets a few others on a lot worse terms than the last renewal.
Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki and David Pipe’s Ramses De Teillee finished side by side at Cheltenham and both have good records at this track but the one that looks the ace in the pack is Evan Williams’ . Secret Reprieve.
He has only had five runs over fences and has been getting better with each of them. He is a progressive six-year-old who looks progressive and handles the ground. He’s 8lbs “well in” , according to the handicapper as he races here off 134 and in the future will run off 142.
It is vital that he gets a good start as his inexperience is the only worry. He is two from two at the track. Yala Enki is a good each-way alternative with Paddy paying 6 places.
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