This weekend, we’ll see the first genuinely big crowd of the National Hunt season so far.
There will be some great racing, and it’s a perfect opportunity to see some promising novices in action in the Chase on Friday. But there’s also a very competitive Handicap on the Saturday, and the Juvenile Hurdle can often throw up a good horse as well.
It’s a big few days all round, which is why the English trainers really like to target it. Here’s where I think the money ought to be going this weekend.
Steel Plate Novices Chase – Friday 14:25
Finian’s Oscar was, admittedly, little more than workmanlike at Chepstow, when his main rival also fell, but every horse has to start somewhere. He’ll build on that run.
I’d like to see him jump a bit quicker and a bit more fluently – and hopefully on his second run he will.
He looks like a stayer to me over jumps.
BetVictor Handicap Chase – Saturday 13:50
Minella Rocco may have been slightly disappointing at Punchestown. But it was his first run of the year, and you’d have to fancy him after dropping back into handicap company on this trip.
But it’s a competitive race: Sizing Codelco has been on good form, as has Vicente who is a dual Scottish national winner. Katkeau has been disappointing, Potters Legend stays forever, and Bally Longford might be interesting at the trip – he might stay, and could be one to look at.
A lot will depend on the weights and who ends up riding them. I’d be looking for something at the bottom of the weights, but you might take a chance on Minella Rocco if Barry Geraghty rides him.
BetVictor Gold Cup – Saturday 14:25
I won this race on Al Ferof, and I think second-season novices can have an edge at this time of the year. Even with plenty of weight, they can just be ahead of the handicapper.
Le Prezien jumped out at me straight away when I looked at this one – he’s a second-season novice with decent form. The other one was Tully East, who won the Novice Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. Either of those two would do for me.
If you were to offer me a ride of my choice from any race this weekend, with the weights the way they are, I think I’d hop on Le Prezien.
Greatwood Hurdle – Sunday 15:00
Even Ivanovich Gorbatov, a former Triumph winner, is in at 11 stone and Tigris River, a Galway Hurdle winner, has 10 st 13lbs. Project Bluebook will go from 10st 7lbs in really good form, while Jenkins has a bit to prove to me.
Top Othe Ra did well in Down Royal last week, and if he was to step up, that might not be a bad option at the price.