It’s the calm before the storm this weekend ahead of Cheltenham and while there’s some valuable races, there’s disappointing size fields.
We’ll kick off up at Doncaster where the opener is the handicap hurdle over 3 miles at 1.50pm. The key here will be how much rain falls and the ground will be very slow if the forecast is right. The Organist is on a bit of a retrieval mission after a couple of ordinary runs over fences but back over hurdles at a track where she is a course & distance winner on soft, she must go well. I’ll give her the nod.
Paul Nicholls has won some valuable races by some shrewd placing of his horse and San Benedeto has been found another good opportunity in the 2m Handicap Chase at 2.25pm. He has form on soft ground too & was a good winner at Musselburgh last time. Bright New Dawn will like this track and could outrun his price for Venetia Williams.
The Listed Mares’ Novice Hurdle (3pm) sees the Red Rum colours carried by LastbutnotLeast who can can cause a little surprise here and beat the likely favourite Happy Diva. She is really tough and can carry on the great run of Donald McCain and Will Kennedy.
The 3m 2f Grimthorpe Chase at 3.35pm is going to be a proper test of stamina and The Last Samuri is the pick.
He won this last year on similar ground before going on to finish second in the Grand National. Yes, he’s more weight to carry as he is 12lbs higher in the ratings, but there is no horse in this who is ahead of the handicapper. Definitely Red deserves to be the favourite after winning the Rowland Meyrick Chase convincingly before tipping up last time at Haydock.
Yala Enki is the one horse that is better than his last run suggests. He could give the selection the most to worry about.
There’s three TV races at Newbury, the first being the Veterans Chase at 2.05pm.
Harry Topper was very laboured at Exeter the last day and the stiff finish helped him finish closer at the end than his jumping warranted. His was ordinary at his fences and if he jumps like that on Saturday, he may find himself in a position where it will be difficult to win from.
For that reason I am going to go for Loose Chips each-way. He’s an honest, front-runner, who never ducks a battle and is always in the firing line.
The 2m handicap hurdle (2.40pm) is a real puzzle. Bloody Mary will love it if it’s really soft, but she has not run for 352 days. That will make life tough for her.
I’m going for a reverse forecast with her and Chesterfield. Seamus Mullins’ runner has not won many races but has caught the eye on many occasions.
The 2m 4f Greatwood Handicap Chase (3.15pm) is a valuable prize that has Dan and Harry Skelton’s Oldgrangewood at the top of the market after his runaway win at Wetherby last time out. He’s been upped 9lbs for that win which may slow him down, so he’s not great value at his price.
The one who is value each-way is Evan Williams’ Tornado In Milan. A run-away winner last time at Wincanton over hurdles, he can take advantage of conditions to win here.