Storm Dennis threatens to decimate the weekend racing with, at the time of writing, inspections planned for Saturday morning for the cards at Ascot, Lingfield (all-weather) and Wincanton with the threat of 50mph winds the problem rather than waterlogging.
With that in mind it may be prudent to begin our preview at Haydock Park where the feature race is the Grand National Trial which looks sure to be a real slog on ground described as heavy on Friday morning. Lord Du Mesnil – 5/1 market leader – has won his last three but is 27lbs higher than when scoring at Newcastle at the end of November, and the handicapper may have caught up with him. He is reluctantly overlooked with the each way vote going to former Welsh National winner Elegant Escape (3.15).
The selection – 11/2 with BetVictor – has had his wind operated on since finishing sixth – beaten 11L – when 9/4 favourite for a second win in the Chepstow feature and he is 2lbs higher this afternoon. Connections were bitterly disappointed with that effort and I hope he shows his true colours this afternoon despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs. Note the selection is currently 25/1 for the Grand National in April and I would be surprised if we see him again ahead of his trip to Aintree.
The Worlds End won the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot last time taking advantage of the late defection of Paisley Park. The 11/8 favourite carries a 6lbs penalty for that success, however, and I am going to give Emitom (2.05) another chance for Warren Greatrex who suggested in a recent interview that we would see a different animal today to the one who disappointed so badly on his reappearance. The selection finished third in a Grade 1 behind Champ at Aintree last spring and the 6-y-old – 7/2 with BetVictor – gets the vote with Gavin Sheehan in the plate.
I hope it is a good day for Greatrex as I hope to see a big run from Portrush Ted (3.50) in the Pertemps qualifier. The selection returned from a lengthy absence to win at Ayr from a 7lbs lower mark last time and he remains an exciting horse despite the fact that he has only seen the racecourse twice since winning the Aintree Bumper in April 2018.
The concluding Hunter Chase is an absolute cracker with The Dellercheckout and Wishing And Hoping (5.00) going head-to-head. Immy Robinson claims 5lbs from the back of the former and she rode the horse with tremendous confidence to score at Ludlow last time, but I was hugely impressed with the Taunton success of the selection last time, despite jumping out to his left. Wishing And Hoping was a horse I had plenty of time for when he was with Philip Hobbs and I expect him to cement his place in the field for next month’s Foxhunters’ Chase at Cheltenham for which he is currently a 12/1 shot at BetVictor with The Dellercheckout 16s.
If racing gets the green light at Wincanton I hope to see a bold show from Cloudy Glen (2.12) who has not had much luck so far this season and was just run out of it close home on his first start over three miles at Sandown last time from a 3lbs lower mark. That run was only two weeks ago which is a slight concern, but I hope to see Charlie Deutsch make plenty of use of his mount whose jumping is his biggest asset.
At Newcastle Alamora was not knocked about on debut and is certainly bred to appreciate this stiff mile, but I thought Morrooj (7.30) also shaped with considerable promise on debut and she gets the vote for Roger Varian. The filly is a big unit and this galloping track should suit her more than was the case at Kempton when she came from the rear to finish fourth.
The Grade 2 Red Mills Chase is the feature at Gowran Park and Chris’s Dream is a personal favourite of mine but at this 2m 4f trip he may have to give best to Real Steel (2.54) who made all to score at Thurles last time and is currently 10/1 with BetVictor for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month.
It was confirmed on Friday that Tiger Roll will bid for an unprecedented third successive Grand National at Aintree in April and Gordon Elliot’s ten-year-old is due to make his belated seasonal reappearance in the Boyne Hurdle – a race he won 12 months ago – at Navan on Sunday. Let’s hope Denis has blown himself out and we get a look at the dual National winner, but preference is for Kilfenora (1.50) who steps out of handicap company for the first time having won his last couple including a valuable contest at Navan last time.