It’s fantastic that the mainstream National Hunt races are back on the box – once you see Cheltenham on TV, you know the National Hunt season is about to take over as we become obsessed with those four days in March..
Everyone’s so excited because the new campaign is alive with possibilities. All the trainers are hoping that last season’s good bumper horses can make great novice hurdlers, and the ones that showed promise over hurdles will be even better chasers.
Everyone is hoping they’ve got a potential champion in the yard.
It always amazes me when I see the likes of 10-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls as excited as a child on Christmas Eve at this time of year – despite all his success. He’s up for defending his title big-time and is already off to a flyer with 20 plus winners this month.
Nicky Henderson too looks totally refreshed and is raring to go after a quieter season by his high standards last term. He’s trying to unearth new stable stars to replace the like of Bobs Worth, Binocular & Simonsig but he was still on the money with Sprinter Sacre who delivered an emotional Champion Chase win when many people doubted he would ever return to his best.
He’s always said training horses is a bit like managing a soccer team. You can have a brilliant team one season, but if a few get injured or their better days are behind them it leaves a void.
But Saturday (despite the unseasonably quick jumping ground) is all about hope and optimism and getting some winners on the board.
Speaking of which …
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We have already seen this season that some trainers are flying and when that happens – it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. That’s what we are doing in the opener with Charlie Longsdon’s Coologue. He looked so good when winning first time out last season at Bangor that he has to be worth an interest in the 1.50pm.
The Novices Handicap Hurdle has a solid fav in Wholestone but Young Dillon has some solid handicap form to his name and could be worth a go in a trappy contest at 2.25pm.
I loved Wolf of Windelsham last year and he won over course and distance at the Open Meeting in November. He could cause a surprise at the expense of Sceau Royal in the Masterson Hurdle at 3pm.
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I’m going to chance Sizing Platinum for his new connections, the Tizzard’s in the handicap chase at 3.30pm as he has shown bits of form in some decent races in Ireland. Ground conditions seem perfect and Aidan Coleman has been booked which is very positive. Fox Norton drops in class and has a squeak too.
Dan Skelton’s Zarib got beaten at Fontwell on his reappearance by Midnight Shot – and the winner followed up here on Friday. There was no disgrace in that and he can go close with that run under his belt. Irish trainer Charles Brynes sends over Top Of the Town for the same contest.
Watch the market as the bookies will start running for cover if this shrewd trainer has a tilt at the ring.
Racing Post Trophy
The final Group One race of the Flat season is run at Doncaster where the two-year-olds contest the Racing Post Trophy at 3.50pm.
It’s thrown up plenty of Classic winners in the past and man of the moment Aidan O’ Brien can narrow the gap on the record group wins in a season with big-race fav Yucatan.
He’s pulled off a few 1-2’s in Group races recently but David Elsworth’s Sir Dancealot will can change the favourite home this weekend.