Another wonderful weekend of jumps racing with the return of the great Altior, the only day of the year when there are two races over the Grand National fences and the race of the season so far at Punchestown on Sunday in the Grade 1 John Durkan Chase.
We start at Sandown and the Grade 1 2m Tingle Creek Chase. Champion Chaser Politilogue will try and make all on his reappearance, but he was almost handed his Cheltenham Festival success back in March with Chacun Pour Soi and Altior missing the race through injury and odds on favourite Defi Du Seuil running no sort of race.
Nicky Henderson reports Altior (2.25) in rude health ahead of his return to the track and we should remember that only Cyrname has beaten the selection in his long career over obstacles and that was over a trip – 2m 5f – arguably beyond his optimum distance. Altior turns 11 at the end of the month, but he is taken to land this prestigious prize for a second time having won it previously back in 2018. The 10/11 with William Hill looks fair.
The other Grade 1 on the card is the Henry VII Chase for novices over the same C&D as the Tingle Creek. Something has to give given all six who go to post are unbeaten over fences.
Allmankind did not put a foot wrong at Warwick and will be hard to peg back if jumping with the same fluency today, but that is a big if. Of the four-year-olds I feel Hitman will come out on top but I just prefer Eldorado Allen (1.50) who will enjoy the forecast heavy ground.
Many disagree but I thought he would have got to Gumball when that one came down two out at Cheltenham last time. The selection – 10/3 with 10bet – has won at Sandown on heavy ground over timber and he gets the vote.
Over at Aintree and I must give Dashing Perk (12.20) another chance in the competitive 15-runner handicap chase over just shy of two-and-a-half miles. The selection was beaten 9L over C&D at the last meeting here in November, but he jumped and travelled very well before running out of gas on the long run to two out. That was his seasonal reappearance, and he has been dropped 1lb for that effort. It should be noted that he has a good record fresh, but he folded so tamely last time that the hope is that he just needed the run. Sam Twiston-Davies keeps the ride.
Quoi De Neuf looks the obvious main danger and trainer Evan Williams had a welcome winner at Exeter yesterday.
In the Becher Chase Kimberlite Candy and Le Breuil are much respected but Coo Star Sivola (1.30) ran an excellent race on his return from a 650-day lay-off when fading from two out at Bangor-on-Dee and he has dropped to a mark 5lbs lower than when winning the Ultima Chase at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2018. His ability to cope with Aintree’s unique National fences must be taken on trust, but he is not nine until the turn of the year and trainer Nick Williams did us a 16/1 favour at Taunton last week. The each way recommendation is 10/1 with Boylesports.
Santini (2.40) should have the race run to suit in the Many Clouds Chase with Frodon and Native River likely to ensure an end-to-end gallop. The selection was last seen finishing runner up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and would appear vulnerable around the tight Mildmay track, but the prospect of deep ground will help and he can run down former Gold Cup winner Native River. The Nicky Henderson runner is 11/8 with Unibet.
The hope is that today’s intermediate 2m 3f+ trip at Chepstow will see Faustinovick (12.47) in a better light than his two chase starts so far this term which have been over 3m – too far – and 2m when looked in need of further. Sean Bowen takes over in the saddle with Robbie Power at Sandown. The selection has been dropped 3lbs since finishing fourth in a better race than today’s here last month and he is now rated 5lbs below his hurdles mark. A market move for Agamemmon be worth noting on his reappearance. At the time of posting only William Hill have prices and the ew selection is 9/2.
Jammy George failed to give his running at Uttoxeter last time, and the Harry Whittington stable are just going through a quiet spell. There are races to be won with Thomas McDonagh over fences this term, but I hope to see St Barts (2.32) improve for his seasonal reappearance when staying on into second behind Ofalltheginjoints at Exeter on his chase debut. A winning pointer the 3lbs rise is negated by the claim of Ben Jones and the conditional was in the plate when the pair combined to score at Ascot over hurdles back in February. The selection is 15/8 with William Hill.
There is no question that the best race of the weekend is the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial at Punchestown on Sunday with the Willie Mullins trained Min, Melon, Tornado Flyer and Allaho taking on Gordon Elliot’s Samcro and Battleoverdoyen with Chris’s Dream and Le Richebourg added for good measure. It is the race of the season so far by a mile. Do not miss it!