Conditions look sure to be testing for the last jumps card of 2020 in Britain with conditions described as heavy with the prospect of further sleet or indeed snow showers later today.
In the handicap chase over 2m Khairagash (1.20) reverts to the minimum trip having jumped well – if out to his left – when runner up over an additional half-mile at Bangor-on-Dee last time on similar ground to what he will encounter today. He is not one of the stars in the Venetia Williams yard, but Charlie Deutsche takes over in the saddle and he looks sure to make a bold bid from the front. Clondaw Storm has been very well backed in all three chase starts and he looks the main danger having finished runner up at Lingfield last time. It will be interesting to see if the grey attracts more support this afternoon.
Aubusson has only been raised a couple of pounds for returning to winning ways at Lingfield last time – 2m 4f – and the step back up in trip to 3m in the Veterans’ Chase is no inconvenience. He is a worthy market leader, but he must give 24lbs to Alberto’s Dream (1.50) and the latter gets the each way vote.
The 11-y-old has, inexplicably, raced right-handed in his last couple of starts and run well in defeat despite jumping markedly out to his left on both occasions. The each way selection – 15/2 with William Hill – is a course winner over 3m 5f and I like the booking of Shane Quinlan for this conditional jockeys’ event. With just 10st 4lbs in the saddle I will be disappointed if he does not run a decent race.
I was keen to take on market leader Mr Washington at Huntingdon last week when he was a late defection on account of the soft ground. It will be something of a surprise if he takes his chance today.
The ew vote goes to Urtheonethatiwant (2.25) who won this corresponding race 12 months ago from a 6lbs lower mark and who looked to be coming to hand when a staying on third at Lingfield last time. Jeremy Scott used the excellent conditional Bryan Carver to take off a valuable 7lbs 12 months ago and Ben Godfrey – who also claims seven pounds – takes over in the saddle today with Everton not playing until tomorrow. The ew selection is 5s with William Hill.
Shearer (3.25) finished second on his first start at Hereford and can go one better for Paul Nicholls and the McNeill family in the concluding Bumper. The owners are big Blackburn supporters and would not have named a horse after the legendary Rovers/Newcastle and England striker unless they thought he was potentially very smart.
At Punchestown Debuchet (2.40) narrowly failed to land a gamble on his first start for Gavin Cromwell over today’s C&D earlier in the month and the grey – who finished second in the Champion Bumper of 2017 – looks fairly treated back in handicap company. The ew selection – 5s with William Hill 4 places – was claimer ridden last time, but Jonathan Moore takes over in the saddle this afternoon. Damalisque looks the main danger on his second returning from a lengthy lay-off at Naas last month although a 5lbs rise makes life more difficult.
Protected Guest (1.00) is not the heartiest of battlers and does carry his head high, but I did not think there was much wrong with his recent second over today’s C&D and he can go one better under Tom Queally. The selection has been raised a couple of pounds for that run but can race from his old mark today. The hope is that The Trader ensures there is enough pace in the race to allow the selection to settle with the Mark Johnston trained grey looking the only pace angle.
At Newcastle, the Sea The Stars filly Sea La Rosa (2.15) looks sure to appreciate the step up to 10f having finished runner up at Wolverhampton over an extended mile last time. Ben Curtis has his first ride since a horrible looking fall at Wolverhampton earlier in the month. It is great to see him back in the saddle so soon given how bad it looked at the time.