*Update: Newbury has been cancelled (boo!)
The ITV crew will be based at Doncaster on Saturday but there’s also action from Newbury and Kelso in Scotland and it looks as if champion trainer Paul Nicholls will have plenty of chances to get on the scoreboard.
We kick off with a hot little contest at Doncaster 13.50 with a 3m Handicap Hurdle. Blackjack Kentucky really took the eye at Chepstow when winning easily. I was impressed and he looks a nice horse.
He could still be well handicapped off his current mark of 130. Shades of Midnight once finished a close-up second to the mighty Paisley Park at Haydock in a Grade 3 handicap and returns after a 12-month lay-off. He would certainly enter calculations if we knew he was race-fit.
Tim Vaughan’s Point of Principle finished a very good second in at 21-runner race at Aintree last year on soft ground off a similar rating and warmed up with a good run at Uttoxeter last month. I’m sure he’ll out-run his double-figure price.
It’s tight call but I’ll side with Blackjack Kentucky.
The two-mile handicap chase at 14.25 sees Paul Nicholls’ Dolos at the head of the market after winning very nicely at Sandown last time, beating the smart First Flow in the process.
He will take a bit of beating again but Dan Skelton’s, Destrier, definitely merits a second look. There was only 3/4 of a length between them at Exeter when second and third to Janika and Destrier is now fitted with a tongue-tie and is 5lbs better off with Dolos and rates the biggest danger.
In the 3m Listed Hurdle at 15.00 Cill Anna looks a very solid favourite for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden and will definitely stay the trip. Venetia Williams’ Eleanor Bob looks the obvious danger.
The ITV coverage ends at Doncaster with the 15.35 with the 3m 2f Grimthorpe Chase. Worthy Farm heads the market and has won his last two races, both at Wincanton.
Boldmere would have won at Wetherby last time to bring up the hat-trick, but fell at the last. I was working at Doncaster when he won here in December and he really operated on the track.
This looks a good opportunity for him to get back to winning ways.
Yaltari is better than his last run suggested as he showed at Ascot last year in the Reynoldstown Chase, when third to Mister Malarky.
The action at Newbury starts with the Greatwood Veterans Chase at 14.05 over 3m 2f. I love these veterans chases as you know where you stand. There are no young improvers, so it gives the old-timers a chance to compete with horses who are the same age.
Horatio Hornblower unseated his rider last time at Sandown, but won nicely at Doncaster before that. He is still attractively handicapped and can figure here. Theatre Guide was second last year and even at the age of 13, is the one to beat.
He put in a great run last time at Sandown so come on the old timer!
Paul Nicholls is mob-handed in the 2m 4f Gracewood Gold Cup at 15.15. Mont Des Avaloirs looks to be the number one choice with Bryony Frost aboard, The seven-year-old faded last time over further, but is smart. San Benedeto loves Newbury and seems to up his game when running here. He won this race last year and has a very good chance again.
Gary Moore’s Not Another Muddle loves soft ground and has some good form to his name. I’d be more confident if this wasn’t his seasonal debut as he should improve for the run.
I’ll have a little on, but the main selection is Mont Des Avaloirs.
There’s one race from Kelso on ITV at 14.45 with the 2m 2f Novice Hurdle with three-time winner Calva DAuge an impressive winner on heavy ground at Plumpton last time. Some of his form is really strong.
However, I am going to take a punt on the hat-trick seeking Cheddleton for Jenny Candlish. I was impressed with him at the this track last time.
He could be quite smart.