Doncaster Racecourse

There is further rain forecast for Esher on Friday and Saturday and underfoot conditions look sure to be testing for Sandown’s feature meeting which is highlighted by the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle.

In the 2m handicap chase Gunsight Ridge has been a beaten favourite in four of his last five starts and been placed in his last five starts at odds of 3/1 or shorter.

He jumped and travelled supremely well when beaten 6L by L’Homme Presse at Exeter over an additional half-mile last time, and we now know that he faced an almost impossible task receiving just 1lb from the progressive winner who landed a Grade 2 at Cheltenham last weekend.

I am not overly concerned with the drop back to the minimum trip, but I am not convinced soft or heavy ground is ideal despite a good run at Newbury under similar conditions over hurdles. If you are playing at short prices, then you need everything in your favour and the form of the Olly Murphy stable is another worry with just one winner from their last 33 runners over the Festive period. 

I appreciate Brewin’upastorm may well have obliged in the Relkeel Hurdle had he not tipped up at the last when challenging at Cheltenham at New Year, but others have certainly underperformed. He is therefore reluctantly overlooked.

The each way alternative to the market leader is Up The Straight (1.50) who travelled very well until the home straight when third at Ascot last time. He followed the leaders by jumping out to his left on that occasion and I would prefer better ground and a return to a left-hand track, but he did run a cracking race here over an additional half-mile last spring under similar underfoot conditions.

Taking the excellent Niall Houlihan’s claim into consideration the ew recommendation – 7s with 10Bet – is 6lbs lower this afternoon and I like the return to the minimum trip.

Aso heads the market in the final of the Veterans’ Handicap Chase series, and he faced a difficult task trying to give subsequent winner Blaklion 16lbs at Haydock last time. He has not won for over two years, but he is down to a decent mark, despite a 2lbs rise for Haydock, and is a worthy market leader.

The each way vote, however, goes to Rolling Dylan (3.00) who has returned from a spell between the flags to run two good races on ground, arguably, quicker than ideal at Aintree and over today’s C&D last month.

Micheal Nolan has not ridden a winner since he returned from injury, but he was in the plate for the selection’s two chase successes although it is nearly three years since he last tasted victory. He carried my vote and cash when he was just touched off by Samuel Jackson from a 12lbs higher mark at Taunton less than two years ago over an extended 3m 4f. The 10/1 with 10Bet 4 places looks a fair each way price.

Natural History was made favourite for the Imperial Cup over today’s C&D back in March, but he didn’t go a yard on the soft/tacky ground, and I have always felt he needs good ground to be seen at his best – irrespective of a heavy ground win on the level.

There is more to come from Gary Moore’s 7-year-old, and he potentially thrown in off a mark of 118 – he is still rated 101 on the level – but he would stay well clear of winter ground if he were mine.

I have been sweet on the chance of Hermes Boy (3.35) all week and will be disappointed if he does not run a big race for Jane and Chester Williams from near the foot of the weights.

Nicky Henderson has saddled the winner of the corresponding race three times in the last five years but sandwiched in between was a victory for Jane Williams courtesy of Monsieur Lecoq who runs in the 2m handicap chase earlier in the card.

Hermes Boy – 9/4 with William Hill – hung right-handed when runner up at Bangor on his penultimate start before going one better at Exeter last time when he made all and had a subsequent 25L winner – Dubrovnik Harry – back in third. There were bigger prices available earlier in the week, but the selection is a best price of 11/4 at the time of writing.

I wouldn’t want the ground too soft at Wincanton on Saturday for Killer Clown (3.15) but do think he is handicapped to return to winning ways in the 2m 4f handicap chase.

The selection – 7/2 with MansionBet – has gone out like a light in both starts so far this term having travelled well into contention and no surprise to see Emma Lavelle give her 8-y-old a wind operation since his last start six weeks ago.  He would appreciate better ground, but he has won on good to soft and run very well in defeat on soft ground.

At Newcastle I hope to see Bavington Bob (1.23) follow up last month’s C&D success from just a 1lb higher mark for Ann Hamilton with leader in the jockey’s title Brian Hughes taking over in the saddle. The recommendation is 13/8 with William Hill.

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