A big field handicap hurdle gets ITV’s coverage underway on the re-arranged Newbury card on Sunday and the topweight MINT CONDITION could be the answer. He was entered in a novice hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, so may not take up this engagement.
If he does he’d have a shout as he came home really well to finish a neck second to the promising Adrimel last time at Warwick over 2m 5f when Kielan Woods rode him and the step up to 3m on Sunday should really suit. Lilly Pinchin now takes 5lbs off his back to ease the burden.
The 2m 4f Listed Novices’ Hurdle has a small, but select field where MINELLA DRAMA is the highest rated in the field but runs off level weights with Here Comes Johnny – who is rated 10lbs lower than him. If the handicapper is right, then Minella Drama has to win.
The Grade 2 Denman Chase sees CLAN DES OBEAUX and Lostintranslation lock horns again, and I fancy Clan Des Obeaux to come out on top. Paul Nicholls’ charge has already beaten him comprehensively twice in the Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase earlier this season.
I just can’t see any reason why LostInTranslation will reverse that form on Sunday. The each-way bet is definitely The Conditional against these two at the head of the market, and let’s hope all eight run to get the three places.
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Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Champ makes his eagerly-awaited seasonal debut over a trip short of his best in the 2m Game Spirit Chase. But, with only a month to the Festival, he is in need of the run. I’d love to see him jump well and travel strongly to signal his well-being, but he is susceptible to fitter rivals over this shorter trip.
However, the one I fancy is the six-year-old FANION D’ESTRUVAL, who is open to a lot of improvement against the nine-year-old Champ. Fanion D’estruval will need to brush up his jumping from Ascot last month, but that run should have left him a lot sharper.
Only 8lbs separates the field in the competitive 2m handicap hurdle. I don’t know many of the runners, but James Bowen is riding the five-year-old GIPSY DE CHOISEL for Nicky Henderson – who was third to Metier at Ascot on debut and looks really unexposed.
Metier followed up victory at Ascot with an impressive win at Sandown in the Tolworth Hurdle and is among the market leaders for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next month. It’s noteworthy that Gipsy De Choisel takes his chance in a handicap off a mark of 133 now.
The 24-runner Betfair Hurdle ends ITV’s coverage at Newbury on Sunday and as ever, it’s wide open with unexposed handicappers chasing a big prize. The one that looks to be improving at a rate of knots is FIFTY BALL for trainer Gary Moore, who has won this race three times since 2007. He’s won his last two starts at Ascot and Sandown and runs off a rating of 131, but still carries a lovely racing weight of 10-5.
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