The start of the turf flat season takes centre stage this weekend with the first leg of the spring double the Lincoln the highlight at Doncaster on Saturday.
Three good British jumps cards this afternoon, however, and we start at Kelso where the Northern Irish raider Bellaney Gem is 10lbs higher in Britain but that will not prevent her running a big race on the extended 2m 6f mares handicap hurdle given she has been knocking on the door on softer ground of late.
This slight step up in trip on better ground will suit but I just prefer the chance of Tomorrow’s Angel (2.40) who ran her best race yet on her debut for the Tristan Davidson yard at Sedgefield last time. The mare remains a maiden over both codes after 20 starts but looks sure to appreciate the drying ground. She needs to brush up her hurdling but, if she does, I feel she can run a big race. There was 4/1 available on Sunday but she is into 15/8 with MansionBet at the time of posting.
The most interesting runner on the card today is Mr Whipped who was a decent novice chaser – 4th in Aintree Grade 1 – for Nicky Henderson and returns to the track after a 717-day absence and first start for Brian Ellison. A check of the market is recommended.
The vote goes to Knockoura (4.10) who made an eye-catching seasonal reappearance when a close third at Newcastle back in December and has, presumably, been saved for the spring ground although he has won on heavy as well as good. The ew recommendation is 8/1 with BetVictor.
Tim Vaughan brings a couple up from south Wales to the Borders for the novices’ handicap chase including Jean Genie (4.40) who gets a narrow vote in a race where all five hold realistic claims. The 5-y-old is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time and is having his second start since having a wind operation. He ran well at Taunton last time and he is open to further improvement on today’s better ground. The 7/2 with Boylesports looks about right.
Hitman Fred (5.10) won his sole Bumper on good ground and made an encouraging chase debut – despite being beaten 30L – when third on ground softer than ideal last month, having previously finished runner up in a Jumpers’ Bumper at Newcastle. The selection – 4s with 10bet – has been dropped 4lbs since his chase debut and the winner followed up from an 8lbs higher mark at Newcastle on Saturday.
At Southwell First Class Return has been put in very short on his first start over fences for Olly Murphy given he had a moderate completion rate over the larger obstacles in his native Ireland. Summit Like Herbie (12.30) was beaten less than 3L at Plumpton last time, has a decent course record and can make them all go from the front under Sam Twiston-Davies. The selection is 5/2 with MansionBet.