Doncaster Racecourse

With rain forecast to hit Cheltenham on Friday morning the ground could be anything from good to firm – which it was at time of writing – through to good to soft depending on which forecast you read. We know 10mls of rain hit the track Sunday, but the executive have watered during the week although we don’t know how much – perhaps they don’t know?

1.35 Cheltenham 

I like having a dart at the opening conditional jockey’s race over two miles and my two against the field are CALICO and Soul Icon with preference for the former.

The each way recommendation – who finished fourth in the Scottish Champion Hurdle of 2021 – begins the campaign 13lbs lower in the weights than this time last year but ran two good races in the first half of the season. He has a good record fresh, Dan Skelton has saddled four winners from his last seven runners and Tristan Durrell rode the horse in the Imperial Cup back in March when he was struck into.

He failed to stay two-and-a-half miles in two runs over hurdles last season and wasn’t beaten far on his sole chase start. He could revert to chasing as the season progresses, but it is not too long ago that the selection was beaten less than a length by Cape Gentleman off level weights in a Group 2 at Kempton. The fact that he goes in all ground is a positive given the uncertainty over underfoot conditions.

Soul Icon did us a favour at Fontwell last time but, with Harry Kimber unable to claim, he is, arguably, 12lbs higher this afternoon. He has won six of his last seven starts and is 44lbs higher than when beginning the sequence. He has been expertly placed by trainer Keiran Burke and it would not surprise me if he took this step up in class in his stride.

Recommendation: Calico EW at 8/1 with SkyBet 6 places or 8/1 with William Hill 5 places

3.55 Cheltenham

Onagatheringstorm drops back in distance to just shy of two-and-a-half miles and I think that will suit the Fergal O’Brien-trained 7-y-old who has had his wind tweaked since last seen back in the spring. He is a worthy market leader.

The Irish have not saddled the winner of this handicap hurdle in the last decade, but I like the chance of their sole representative SEDDON who gets the each way vote.

Trained by John McConnell the 9-y-old ran a terrific race over an inadequate two miles back over hurdles last time and will appreciate the stap back up in trip. His talented amateur rider is excellent value for his 5lbs claim having won on two of his last four rides in Ireland, and he got to know the selection when the pair finished second at Cartmel over fences back in August.

Recommendation: Seddon EW at 9/1 with 888sport 4 places

4.05 Doncaster

The beautifully bred Almuhit has been put in as the short priced – 11/10 – market leader for the 1m 6f handicap and he is a half-brother to the Oaks winner Taghrooda out of a listed winner at this trip. He should stay although his ability to handle good to soft or soft ground must be taken on trust. The classic generation receive 7lbs weight-for-age and his habit of being slowly away from the stalls is unlikely to be much of an inconvenience in a race unlikely to be run at a breakneck gallop.

TRAILA was well supported when going down by just a short head to The Gadget Man who has franked the form by running very well from a 3lbs higher mark earlier in the month. This softer ground is an unknown for this former Stoute inmate who has, himself, been raised 3lbs by the handicapper.

Trained by David Simcock, the booking of William Buick catches the eye with regular pilot Jamie Spencer out in Australia for the Cox Plate on Saturday.

Recommendation: Traila at 13/8 with William Hill

2.35 Newbury

Picual has been a beaten short-priced favourite in his last couple of starts since he gained an improbable win at Nottingham from a 6lbs lower mark when slowly away but gaining a fluent success from a filly now rated 9lbs higher. She remains potentially well treated.

MISTY DANCER did us a favour when beating Smiling Jayne a length at Ayr last month, and she can confirm the form on just 2lbs worse terms especially if the rain that was due to hit most of Britain on Thursday arrives.

She will have to improve again to defy a 5lbs higher mark than Ayr but her previous win at Goodwood suggested she enjoys plenty of cut and the Crisfords remain in tremendous form. Rob Hornby rode the selection at Ayr, but he keeps his partnership with Miss Down Under who made all to beat a subsequent winner at Ffos Las last time. She is progressing nicely, loves soft ground and represents a big danger.

Hills have opened up 3/1 but it is such a competitive heat that I would be surprised if we didn’t get 4/1 when other firms come out with their markets.

Recommendation: Misty Dancer at 3/1 with William Hill  

3.10 Newbury

I am keen to take on market leader Frantastic in the 1m 5f handicap for 3-y-olds although preference for BENY NAHAR ROAD over Juan Bermudez is marginal.

Trained by Richard Hughes the selection promises to be well served by this step up in distance having finished in the frame in all four Maiden/Novice events to date. David Egan takes over in the saddle for the first time on this lightly-raced maiden who receives weight from the principles.

Juan Bermudez beat The Gadget Man – now rated 90 – at Newmarket on soft ground 12 months ago and has been off the course since disappointing on his reappearance at Leicester back in the spring. He is fitted with a tongue-tie for his first start in over 200-days and that comeback run is working out very well. He represents a very shrewd yard, and a market move would be significant.

Recommendation: Beny Nahar Road at 7/2 with William Hill   

4.43 Newcastle

I know I might be accused of following SCOTTISH DANCER over a cliff and he would be carrying1lb LESS if this race were run on Saturday, but I do feel he is capable of upsetting the likely short priced favourite Golden Shot who has won his last couple for Sir Mark Prescott since – surprise surprise – he has been stepped up in distance having been campaigned over inadequate trips as a juvenile.

The Prescott-trained gelding has won a couple on tapeta over 1m 6f but has been raised a stone for those victories. He is entered again at Kempton next week and could easily be a class apart from his field, but this a much stronger race than his last two and the each way vote goes to Jedd O’Keefe’s gelding.

Scottish Dancer has been beaten a neck and a nose in his last couple of starts over two miles and remains unexposed at staying distances. There are no prices available at the time of posting, but I would expect him to be an each way alternative to the Newmarket raider.

Recommendation: Scottish Dancer EW at  

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