There’s a myth that 19th century Yorkshireman Thomas Crapper invented the loo (he didn’t), but there’s nothing toilet about Saturday’s jumps racing, with ITV4 stopping re-runs of Murder She Wrote in time to show nine cracking races from Cheltenham’s Trials Day and Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase card.
Ol’ TC runs in the Hugo’s Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase at Cheltenham (1.10pm), but it might be worth taking the hint that a big run is expected from Saphir du Rheu. He’s only a couple of pounds off the Timeform top-rated Walk In The Mill and, importantly, is owned by Andy Stewart – grandfather of the ‘Hugo’ who stars in the race title.
It’s a big day at Timeform Towers, with sponsorship of the Novices’ Chase, the second race (12.35pm) ensuring a crowd of Northern scruffs will be joining the tweed brigade at Cheltenham. Ibis du Rheu, a half-brother to Saphir du Rheu, is respected in our race, however it might be wiser to focus on Dark Flame and Burtons Well – a half-brother to Burton Port – who both have a ‘p’ attached to their ratings.
Despite the return of 2015 Ryanair winner Uxizandre, Tony McCoy’s final Festival winner, Willie Mullins’ Un de Sceaux shouldn’t need to be at his best to see off six rivals in the re-routed Clarence House Chase, the only Grade 1 of the day at 1.45pm.
However, there is certainly a top-level performer in the Cotswold Chase at 2.15pm: Thistlecrack. Smad Place and Many Clouds will be no pushovers but it would be a big surprise if the Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite doesn’t gain more winning experience over fences.
It’s round three of Ballyoptic v Unowhatimeanharry in the Cleeve Hurdle at 4.00pm, with the latter having come out on top so far.
It’s a tough one to call, with Harry Fry’s rising star having to concede weight to Ballyoptic for the first time, and you couldn’t criticise those brave enough to give one more chance to Ballyoptic. He’s trained by local trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, famous for his camel-brown duffel-coat, certainly the right gear for this week’s cold snap.
Other Grade 2 highlights include the Finesse Hurdle (12.00pm) – a J.P. McManus duel between Triumph hopes Charlie Parcs and Defi du Seuil – and the Classic Novices’ Hurdle (3.25pm), in which Wholestone is narrowly top rated. However, we have a Sneaky Feeling (see what we did there) that Topofthegame and a couple of others could improve past Twiston-Davies’ runner.
Over at Doncaster, the River Don Novices’ Hurdle (1.25pm) looks a much stronger renewal than in recent years, with the likes of Constantine Bay, Minella Aris and Give Me A Copper topping a large shortlist, while surprise runner Vroum Vroum Mag should have no problems in the 3.05pm.
The Sky Bet Chase (3.40pm) has been won by seven-year-olds in four of the last six years and Southfield Royale is the only horse from that age group in the 16-strong field. He’s a big player on his return to action but does face a stern test from talented novice Bigbadjohn, Fifty To Follow member Out Sam, and last year’s winner Ziga Boy.
Trials Day Trixie
- Saphir du Rheu in the 1.10pm at Cheltenham
- Topofthegame in the 3.25pm at Cheltenham
- Southfield Royale in the 3.40pm at Doncaster