Good ground at Newbury on Friday and no rain forecast ahead of today’s card where I hope to see Not A Role Model (12.40) take the opening Veterans’ Handicap Hurdle for Sam Thomas and Kevin Brogan who takes off a valuable 5lbs. The 9-y-old – 9/4 with William Hill – will enjoy the decent ground and his form since being fitted with a tongue-tie reads 211. Jordan Nailor was in the saddle when the selection scored at Fakenham over timber last time, but he is claimed by Nigel Twiston-Davies to ride Equus Miller who has been chasing of late.
Eaton Hill is the obvious danger having been first past the post at Newbury last time only be disqualified as he weighed in 3lbs light. He has been raised 3lbs for that effort although the form has been franked with the winner and second both landing Jumpers’ Bumpers.
I could pick holes in the recent form/wellbeing of all ten runners in the Veterans’ Chase, but the BetVictor sponsored Greatwood Gold Cup is an absolute belter and all 14 runners will have their supporters. A big run from Pogue at Doncaster on Friday would be a positive for the chance of Barton Knoll who has his optimum conditions of being fresh 2m 4f on a flat left-handed track on good ground. He is 25/1 with William Hill because he represents a small yard although he has been raised 7lbs for his win at Doncaster back in November.
The Crick will appreciate todays better ground and is another to consider at a double figure price, but the each way vote goes to Killer Clown (1.50) despite the selection having been raised 15lbs for his facile success at Kempton over Christmas when he did us a huge favour.
The ew selection – 11/2 with Boylesports 4 places – failed to get home at Exeter over 3m earlier in the season but is a fluent jumper of a fence and remains open to further improvement. The form of his Kempton win has a strong look to it with a couple of winners coming out of the race and there seems no reason why a return to a left-hand track will be an issue, although he only got as far as the second on his sole chase start left-handed.
Proschema (2.30) would prefer the ground to be more good than good to soft/tacky, but if the times of the races on Friday suggest that it is nearer good then there can be no excuses for the Dan Skelton hurdler who has won his last couple of Jumpers’ Bumpers having got bogged down on soft ground when last seen over hurdles in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham back in November.
Bridget Andrews was in the saddle when the selection – 3/1 with 10bet – scored at Newcastle on his penultimate start and returns to the saddle with Harry Skelton heading up to Kelso for four rides. Greatwood Day at Cheltenham was disappointing, but I am hopeful of a better show on what is the same charity’s flagship day at Newbury.
At Doncaster when Hydroplane (1.45) failed to stay the 2m 4f trip on his last hurdle start he was locking horns with Bushypark who is now rated 27lbs higher. The selection landed a gamble when landing a Jumpers’ Bumper for Ian Williams last time and I would be disappointed if he did not go very close in the opening 2m handicap hurdle from a mark of 115. The 7/2 with William Hill on Friday looks fair.
The G2 Novices’ Hurdle over 2m 2f at Kelso is, arguably, the race of the day with seven talented novices including five who hold entries at the Festival. It looks more like a race with Aintree in mind for me and I am looking forward to seeing My Drago – who does not hold a Cheltenham entry – try and give weight to his six rivals. A race to watch for me.
Irish raider The Shunter is only 6lbs higher than when winning the Greatwood Hurdle – what else – back in November but that success was gained on soft ground and he might find things happening a bit too quickly on the forecast good ground. Scardura – 33/1 with William Hill – looks overpriced reverting to timber for Neil Mulholland in the £75k Morebattle Hurdle but the each way vote goes to Tommy’s Oscar (3.15) who lost nothing in defeat when runner up in the Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last time.
The each way recommendation – 10s with Unibet 4 places – will get further than the minimum trip and will need a decent test to be seen at his very best. Scardura and bottom weight Orkan should ensure a good gallop.