HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend preview of the top jump racing. This week the former Talksport tipster focuses on the cards at Uttoxeter, Ffos Las and Lingfield Park.
After four thoroughly enjoyable days at Cheltenham I shall be at Uttoxeter this afternoon for the marathon 20-runner Midlands Grand National. Donald McCain was amongst the winners at the festival and his Idle Talk would have a leading chance if the forecast rain stayed away.
The Irish have won three of the last seven renewals, however, and I like the booking of David Casey for the progressive Inoma James (3.15) trained in County Kildare by Derek Barry.
Jessica Harrington saddled the winner back in 2003 with Intelligent and she saddles Badgerlaw who has finished fifth and second in this event in the last couple of years. Third time lucky? Perhaps but I just favour Inoma James.
Silverburn was a late defection from the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham where I thought he had a leading chance. Welsh handler Evan Williams has his string in cracking form and he ought to go close despite top-weight in the handicap hurdle at 2.40. Marginal preference is for Volador and Richard Johnson, however, despite failing to give his running at Ffos Las last time on ground which may have been quicker than ideal. He is one to keep on the right side of when he tackles the larger obstacles next season, but this is a decent prize and he ought to go close especially with the Hobbs’ team in such excellent form this week at Prestbury Park.
The Channel 4 cameras are also at Lingfield Park for the culmination of the all-weather season the Group 3 Winter Derby. Soul City was a top-class juvenile who has been off the track since disappointing on fast ground behind Mastercraftsman in the Gp 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He lacks experience of the polytrack surface, however, and the great Henry Cecil can land this courtesy of Tranquil Tiger (3.35) who is unbeaten in two starts over today’s C&D including when beating Suits Me (2lbs worse off) in the listed Quebec Stakes last time. The selection had previously beaten the talented Presvis (subsequent winner in Group 2 company in Meyden) and a repetition of that run should see him go very close.
Another wonderful veteran Newmarket handler Clive Brittain has won the listed Spring Cup in two of the last five years and he saddles a couple of the 13 strong field this year.
Seb Sanders rides the filly Jira (3.00) and she is given the nod despite being off the track since finishing fifth in a valuable sales’ race at Newmarket last autumn. She still holds entries in both the StanJames.com 1000 Guineas and the Investec Oaks and if she is to take up either of those Classic entries she must go very close in this company.
Inxile has yet to run on an artificial surface but this perennial front-runner would go close if adapting to polytrack. He may face a battle for the lead with the progressive mare Jaconet (4.45) who is race-fit and recommended despite the fact that her three course wins have come over six rather than five furlongs. Back at the minimum trip she is well-drawn for one who likes to race prominently and can land the nap.
Andrew Balding’s Balducci ran a great race on debut when green as grass before the penny dropped at Kempton. The concluding mile maiden often goes to a decent horse and this well-bred son of Dansili can land what ought to be an informative contest. Mark Johnston’s Al Faharidi hung left and was arguably unlucky on debut but preference is for Balducci (5.50).