HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend preview of the top jump racing. This week the former Talksport plumps for Planet of Sound as his nap of the day.
Wincanton’s feature event the Kingwell Hurdle will be transferred to Ascot if the track fails its 1pm inspection today and with inspections planned at Uttoxeter (8am) and Haydock Park (9am) tomorrow for their jumps action it would appear we are not yet out of the woods as far as this extremely cold and frustrating winter is concerned.
Punjabi has Starluck to beat in the Kingwell Hurdle and whilst the latter would hold outstanding claims at the tight Somerset track I think last year’s Champion Hurdler will prevail at Ascot. With Binocular’s defection and Zaynar’s tame defeat at Kelso at 1/14 on Thursday it has not been the best of weeks for Nicky Henderson’s top class hurdlers but granted a sufficient test I think he can give 4lbs and a beating to his younger rival. Wincanton would be a different proposition.
Planet of Sound is the nap in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase (3.15) which is a pretty ordinary contest for the money. The Philip Hobbs trained 8-y-o must win if he is to become a realistic contender for next month’s Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He has never run over a trip this far and his stamina must be taken on trust but he goes well fresh and with front-runners The Sawyer, Monet’s Garden and Herecomesthetruth in the field he ought to have the race run to suit.
Burton Port could hardly have been more impressive at Southwell last time and ought to land the Reynoldstown at Ascot due off at 2.15.
I’m not convinced we saw the real Bellvano at Kempton over Xmas but Menorah could hardly have been more impressive in handing out a 12L beating to last week’s impressive Newbury winner. He ought to confirm his lofty home reputation in the 3.45 although Henderson has a couple of very interesting maidens who are in receipt of 10lbs from the likely favourite.
The hope is that Haydock passes its morning inspection as there is some top quality action at the Lancashire track. Doctor Pat has to win to get into the weights for one of the Festival handicaps and he was stopped in his tracks by a jolting mistake three out in a better race at Cheltenham last time. He will take the beating if his jumping holds up.
The big betting race of the day is the Blue Square Gold Cup and many National contenders are in opposition including 2009 Aintree winner Mon Mome. With the announcement of the weights in London earlier in the week and no penalties after this date it is a wonderful renewal of this famous race with 2008 winner Miko De Beauchene and former Welsh National winner L’Aventure my two against the field.
There is an excellent National Trial in Ireland with seven of the nine runners in the Bobbyjo Chase holding Aintree engagements. Last year’s winner Black Apalachi must go close, but Notre Pere will surely be given a more aggressive ride than he was given at Leopardstown in the Hennessy last time and is given the nod. Look out for Casey Jones who jumped out to his left last time and the run is best ignored. He is a must for the Aintree shortlist despite the burden of 11st 3lbs.
Nap: Planet of Sound 3.15 Ascot