With all the great racing around Christmas, Saturday’s Newbury card was in danger of getting lost somewhere between the 78 meetings on Boxing Day and the hangover-soothing action on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham.
Neither Channel 4, who’ve been benched for racing’s new terrestrial home, ITV, will be showing Newbury (boo!) but the good news is that Racing UK will be free to non subscribers and the day’s feature, the Challow Hurdle, looks a cracker. Huzaah!
So, here are five bets that could help to pay for a few beers on New Year’s Eve.
There are a number with chances in the Challow Hallow, including Alan King’s Messire des Obeaux and Nicky Henderson’s Cultivator, but the one who could be something really special is Dan Skelton’s ROBIN ROE. He looked destined for graded company when bolting up in a maiden hurdle at Aintree in October on just his second start under Rules, and with the second No Comment (who was 12 lengths behind) and the third Tintern Theatre (beaten over 16 lengths by the winner) both winning next time out, the form looks solid.
Jumps purists may need skip this paragraph as we switch codes for the feature race on the all weather. The feeling is that last year’s Cambridgeshire winner THIRD TIME LUCKY remains on a good mark after a light turf season in 2016 (finished a good fourth in the same race this time around). He didn’t settle at Wolverhampton last time and is worth another chance, having been dropped in the weights by the handicapper since.
Back over jumps, BURTONS WELL, a half-brother to Burton Port (second in a Hennessy and fourth in a Gold Cup) looks an interesting bet in the novices’ handicap chase. Burtons Well finished second on his first start for nearly two years at Sedgefield last time and is entitled to improve on that here from what looks a good handicap mark. Like many from Venetia Williams’ yard, he should relish a stamina-sapping race in the mud.
Back to the main action at Newbury and Gordon Elliott sends over KINGS BANDIT for the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle at 15:00. Kings Bandit was a useful novice hurdler for Donald McCain in 2013/14 and has been lightly raced since (had a brief spell over fences for Oliver Sherwood last season). He was in the process of running well at Navan last time and looked like he’d be involved in the finish before he was hampered and fell three out. He is still lurking on a dangerous mark.
If the beer kitty is still low at this point it could be Jools Holland for us, but dual bumper winner WILLIAM HENRY may be able to save the day in the lucky last. He shaped really well on his first start for 20 months in a warm-looking novice at Cheltenham in December and looked a banker for a similar race in the short term. He should be hard to beat in a race which his trainer Nicky Henderson has won for the last five years.