We are on weather-watch for Saturday’s racing, but Wincanton and Sandown have been proactive and put down frost covers. Hopefully that will prove to be a very shrewd move.
We will kick off at Sandown where we get to see Laurina strut her stuff for the first time this season.
Many people feel she is a very good outside bet for the champion hurdle.
She is going to be unbackable and for good reason – Ruby Walsh comes over to ride her which is a real signal of intent.
Sensulano must wonder what she did wrong to bump into a one as good as her but I have no doubt she will run a big race.
The Tolworth hurdle is a grade one for novices, and it has thrown up a few surprises over the years. Sandown is a funny track and when it gets very soft there the horses who try to make up ground from the back can get bogged down in the straight – those last two hurdles can be game changers if horses make mistakes.
Sommerville Boy won it last year from Kalashnikov – we all know those two on their next starts won a Supreme Novice hurdle and the Betfair Hurdle.
Rathhill was super impressive at Newbury even though the form book says it only won by a length and a half. Nicky Henderson had a few options for this race and it’s interesting that this is the one he has chosen to run.
Elixir de Nutz has won his last two at Cheltenham and is the highest rated in here after that. I think this will be harder on this slower ground, but he has a likeable attitude, as does Southfield Stone who impressed with a couple of easy successes at Taunton.
Grand Sancy ran a blinder in a tough handicap at Ascot coming from an impossible position and he represents a good each-way alternative to the short-priced favourite.
This veterans chase series is one of the best things that the BHA have done. I love these races as you know all the horses so well.
Exitas will run his usual game race and it’s amazing to think he ran 20 times during 2018. That is the sort of horse any owner would love to own.
Loose Chips finished 5th in this race last year and loves the track, but one that has a great chance is Rock Gone. This lad ran a blinder behind Loose Chips, though the worry is that he has looked a weak finisher in the past. You cant do that around this track because they will go hard here.
For that reason I am going for dour stayer Rathlin Rose – this one will stay and the harder they go the better.
In the last at Sandown I really like Richard Spencer’s horse Thistimenextyear. This lad was trying to give a lot of weight away to a horse at the track last time and only just failed to do it.
Monsieur Lecoq won very nicely at Ffos Las in an ordinary race but don’t be fooled by that – this horse is decent as he showed when running well at Auteuil in France.
We have a few races at Wincanton for you on ITV4 too.
I might be mad but I am keen on the outsider of the field here. Midnight Maestro won a competitive handicap at Market Rasen over hurdles and jumped poorly on chase debut. Alan King will have done plenty of schooling with this horse since and this lad can cause a surprise at the expense of Molineaux.
The ground is the key here at Wincanton as it’s only good ground that may ride a bit dead as the frost covers have been down since Wednesday.
A really competitive handicap hurdle with lots of these unexposed. Tedham is the one who gets the nod – he has run some nice races and has been knocking on the door in decent novice hurdles. He gets the vote over Wallace Spirit.
Theinval is a bit of a legend for Sandy and Caroline Orr, who own him. He normally comes good at Ayr up at the Scottish national meeting and sometimes if he has run the day before. I think he is too big a price here in an ordinary enough race.