The Newbury Winter Festival comes under orders on Friday and while there’s just four races at Newbury on ITV there’s a real mix of quantity and quality.
A really good 2m 4f handicap chase starts the card at 13.50 where former Betfair Hurdle winner and Aintree Novice Chase winner Kalashnikov heads the weights with Punchestown winner O O Seven. Kalashnikov will be better for his first run when second to Forest Bihan at Aintree, but the worry is that top-weight will anchor Amy Murphy’s charge.
Mick Channon’s Glen Forsa has to be respected on his early for last season while Oldgrangewood actually won this contest in 2017 when rated 10lbs higher, so you can see what I mean about quality.
David Pipe’s string are in good form and his Eamonn an Cnoic could be worth a play each-way. He unseated his rider at Cheltenham last month but has some good back form including when beating Saturday’s Ascot winner Capeland at Chepstow last season. That looks good now!
The 2m 4f Grade 2 Novices Chase is up next at 14.25 and looks a decent contest. Champ looked good last time out at this venue and so did Black Op who jumped brilliantly at Stratford on his seasonal bow, compared to when third behind Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation at Cheltenham last January in the Dipper Novices’ Chase.
Again, that form has been given a huge boost recetly.
Colin Tizzard’s Vision Des Flos is officially the highest rated of these – but I was impressed with Champ and think he can win again.
The Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at 15.00 sees the reappearance of last season’s Champion Stayer, Paisley Park, who carried all before him last season in a five-race unbeaten run.
I knocked him a few times, but he just kept delivering the goods.
Thistlecrack put up some amazing performances over fences including when just behind Clan des Obeaux in the King George VI Chase at Kempton last Christmas. On official ratings he is the only one that can trouble the selection. He disappointed when favourite for this race in 2017, finishing fifth to another of Friday’s runners Beer Goggles.
If Paisley Park is not on his ‘A’ game, then Thistlecrack is the one who is most likely to catch him out.
We round off ITV’s coverage with a wide open 18-runner contest in the 3m handicap hurdle at 15.35
Last year’s winner Vive Le Roi has more on his plate this time in a race where Paddy is paying the first 5 home. Champers on Ice will have plenty of supporters after his Ffos Las win as will One for the Team who ran a blinder at Worcester.
However, Dan Skelton’s Anytime Will Do started favourite in a nice race at Market Rasen but could only finish third. The form has been franked by both the winner and second that day, Honest Vic (fourth at Haydock since) and Skandiburg (subsequently won at Aintree).
Anytime Will Do’s novice form is good enough to win here.
*Prices & entries correct at time of publishing