The excellent midweek fare over both codes continues today with the opening day of both Ayr’s Scottish National meeting and Newbury’s Guineas Trials. The funeral of the Duke Of Edinburgh means tomorrow’s feature cards are postponed for 24 hours with ITV covering both meetings on Sunday.
We begin at Ayr where Harry Skelton, at the time of writing, looks to have one hand on a first jockey’s title given he has a three-winner lead over Brian Hughes and a strong book of rides at Cheltenham on Thursday. I hope to see his brother’s 4-y-old Stepney Causeway overbet in the opening novices’ hurdle, however, as I am sweet on the chances of Mrs Hyde (1.00) who is coming back from a break having missed the deep winter ground.
The selection – 5/4 with MansionBet – beat Verdana Blue at Wetherby on soft ground back in October but does have winning form on a sounder surface having won a listed contest at Kempton earlier in the month. The mare has an excellent record fresh but must carry a 10lbs penalty although she still receives a couple of pounds from the juvenile who is also hit with 10lbs worth of penalties.
The feature race is the listed 2m 4f handicap chase and I am still kicking myself for not recommending Proschema stepping up in trip for the Skeltons’ at Cheltenham midweek. A similar scenario presents itself today with Not That Fuisse (3.15) who steps back up in distance having travelled well but found little at Cheltenham in the Grand Annual last month.
The recommendation – 7/4 with 10Bet – impressed when scoring at Perth over this trip back in September although that race fell into his lap somewhat with his main rivals underperforming. He will have the race run to suit today with Barton Knoll sure to make this a true test and the latter is very interesting having run two excellent races from the front in recent weeks.
John Mackie’s 9-y-old made at least two serious mistakes at Haydock last time when he and Johnny Burke did not appear to see eye to eye. Sean Quinlan takes over in the saddle and has a good record on the horse with two wins from 4 rides. He is a horse who does not take much racing, however, and I just worry this third run in less than six weeks will find him out.
Brian Hughes rides Fete Champetre in the 2m handicap hurdle and is an exciting prospect for Rose Dobbin to go chasing with next term. The vote, however, goes to Defining Battle (3.50) who is another potential winner for Harry Skelton. The Irish import – 9/4 with BetVictor – finished runner up at Taunton last time and the winner is now rated 134 after an excellent run at Aintree last week. The selection has only had two starts over timber but was rated in the 80s on the flat for Mick Halford and is likely to be ridden more conservatively than was the case last time when he tried to make all.
At Newbury there is a hot Conditions event with all eight runners previous winners. I am surprised River Alwen is starting off over 10f although he remains a colt of some potential. I believe the winner will be wearing the famous colours of Juddmonte and just favour the colt Maximal (3.25) over filly Senita.
The selection – 9/4 with Boylesports – was too keen and failed to get home on soft ground in the Autumn Stakes here last time but had looked a useful sort when chasing home One Ruler at Sandown back in August. He is beautifully bred although he must prove his stamina for the trip given, he is out of a winning sprinter and his half-brothers – Jovial & Jubiloso – were winners over 6 and 7 furlongs. I hope this son of the great Galileo has inherited much of his father’s stamina.
Senita is currently 50/1 for the Oaks and this beautifully bred filly easily landed the odds on her third start at Redcar. Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle for the first time.