It’s Challow Hurdle day at Newbury and we kick off at 13.50 with a competitive 2m 4f handicap hurdle. My eye is drawn immediately to Richard Johnson who rides Dorking Boy at the bottom of the weights for trainer Tom Lacey. He won last month at Taunton over 2m and looks to follow up over half a mile further here.
Despite there being 22lb between him and One for Rosie near the top of the weights, the Nigel Twison-Davies runner could be the danger, even with a 266-day lay-off.
The Mandarin Handicap Chase over 3m 2f at 14.25 has a rich history of good winners – but looks an ordinary contest this year. The youngest horse in the field is Colin Tizzard’s five-year-old Copperhead who looked progressive when winning at Wincanton last time.
He gets the vote to go in again with Cobolobo for the Jonjo O’Neill team the danger after getting off the mark this season last time out at Haydock over 3m 1f.
The feature race of the day is the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle at 15.00. Philip Hobbs tries to win a Grade One with a horse other than Defi Du Seuil who has been the stable’s flag bearer for the last few seasons. Thyme Hill is advertising the form of last year’s Champion bumper at Cheltenham where he finished third. He has looked very progressive this season in his two hurdle races.
The Cashel Man really stepped up last time when ridden positively, but the surprise package could be Eclair Surf who won first time up at Exeter.
He was strongly supported lthen and is highly regarded by connections.
I am loathe to desert Thyme Hill.
A 2m 6f contest ends the card at Newbury at 15.35 and I’m all over Kateson. Leighton Aspell’s mount hasn’t many miles on the clock over fences, having had just one start over the larger obstacles. Kim Bailey’s Commodore Barry is the one for the each-way punters, but I’ll take Kateson to win it.
At Leicester, the feature race is the the Silver Fox Handicap Chase at 14.40. It’s a decent prize and it’s easy to see why a couple of the younger horses look like they’ve been targeted at it.
Nick Gifford’s Belargus is only a four-year-old and gets the 6lb weight-for-age allowance. He had a good tune up at Southwell when fourth on handicap debut and gets the nod over Eureu de Boulay, who won in France over hurdles last time.
The second race on the box is the 2m handicap hurdle at 15.15. Little Rory Mac runs here and rarely has there been a horse that has caused so much attention after his owner changed his Twitter profile picture to a handbrake last time it won!
He had caught the attention of the stewards on its previous run for being handled tenderly and the jock got a hefty ban. The horse bolted up at Market Rasen and could well follow up despite being 11lbs higher now. Nigel Twiston-Davies Ballyellis has been consistent and rates the danger with the first-time tongue tie on.
*Prices and entries correct at time of publishing