A wonderful day of jump racing on both sides of the Irish Sea and the unbeaten Envoi Allen is fitted with a first-time tongue-tie for his chase debut at Down Royal this afternoon.
Gordon Elliotâ€™s six-year-old was an impressive winner of the Ballymore Novicesâ€™ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in March, but connections have always considered him a potential Gold Cup winner.Â
There is a terrific card at Wetherby this afternoon and while only four go to post for the Novicesâ€™ Chase it is a fascinating heat with the quartet all having realistic claims.
Few novicesâ€™ have impressed me more than Shan Blue so far this season but his course win was gained over two-and-a-half miles and he will do well to give 6lbs to IK Brunel (1.00) and Hold The Note and it is the former who gets the vote.
Hold The Note finished third behind Imperial Aura and Galvin at Cheltenham back in March having finished runner up previously at Warwick in Grade 2 company. He is the one to beat on official figures but he looked all over the winner at Warwick and, while you couldnâ€™t say he was a non-stayer over three miles, it was no surprise to see him drop back in trip at the Festival. He has run well first time out in the past, but he looked to need his first start last term at Ludlow and he is reluctantly overlooked.
IK Brunel looked ready for a step up in trip when second at Fontwell â€“ over 2m 5f+ – on his chase debut and he has that fitness advantage over the market leader. At 4/1 with 10bet he gets a narrow vote having jumped well last time. I hope jockey Adrian Heskin ensures the race is run at a decent gallop.
William H Bonney (1.35) finished weakly but travelled strongly on his reappearance over C&D here earlier in the month and has been dropped a couple of pounds by the handicapper. Alan Kingâ€™s nine-year-old remains open to young improvers but this does not look a strong a race as the one just over two weeks ago and the stable remain in excellent form. The 11/2 with William Hill looked too big on Thursday and he – at the time of posting – is 4/1.
Equus Millar is an interesting contender in the 2m handicap chase but he wouldnâ€™t want the ground to turn soft â€“ described as good to soft on Thursday â€“ and my two against the field are top-weight Some Reign and Smiths Cross (3.20) who is blinkered for the first time for Michael Scudamore.
The each way selection – 9/1 at BetVictor – has been running over hurdles of late but has bits of form over fences â€“ third at Carlisle from a 10lbs higher mark last October when jumping left â€“ that would make him look very well treated at present. He gets the each way vote.
Third Time Lucki (3.55) â€“ fourth in the Champion Bumper back in the spring – looked as if he could go to the top over hurdles when easily landing the odds at Uttoxeter on his first start over timber. He concedes weight to his 12 rivals, but it will be disappointing if he does not maintain his unbeaten record over jumps.
Get In The Queue (12.50) won all three starts in Bumpers for Harry Fry and makes his eagerly awaited hurdles debut at Uttoxeter. The selection – 8/13 at William Hill – has been off the track since March 2019 when he gave Noel Fehily a winner on his final ride. He has since switched ownership, but he is an exciting prospect.
I hope it is a very good day for Harry Fry as his King Roland (3.10) makes his chase debut in a top class Beginnersâ€™ Chase which also sees Cheddleton, Bold Plan and Ubetya have their first start over the larger obstacles.
The selection – who was put in at 5/2 with one firm – is a winning pointer who was last seen finishing second in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Cheltenham on Trialsâ€™ Day back in January. He will stay further than todayâ€™s two-mile trip, but I still believe he can cope with the drop back to the minimum distance. At the time of posting he is 11/8 with Boylesports.
Black Tulip continues to drop in the weights and she is entitled to come on for her reappearance here, but Arqalina (3.45) won first time out for Venetia Williams last year and she can land the maresâ€™ handicap chase from a 7lbs higher mark. The mare is 3s with Unibet.