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 Newbury and Doncaster.
Weather permitting I’ll be at Newbury today for a wonderful card in support of Greatwood a charity that looks after retired racehorses. Once again Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a very strong hand including in the feature race due off at 3.10 where he is double handed in the nine runner field.
Big Fella Thanks has the John Smith’s Grand National as his end of season target and could easily find this 2m 4f trip on the sharp side. Pasco is the mount of Ruby Walsh and looks the stable’s first string given the grey has won three and finished second on his four starts at the Berkshire track.
There are a number of front-runners in the race including the selection Battlecry (3.10) who has finished runner up in his last three starts. Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies landed the big race last Saturday courtesy of Razor Royale in the Racing Post Chase and Battlecry in the famous colours of Trevor Hemmings ought to go close in a cracking contest.
Former Hennessy winner Trabolgan (2.35) looked likely to play a hand in the finish when coming down four out behind a rejuvenated Chief Dan George at Doncaster last time and with trainer Nicky Henderson a standing dish at Newbury he must go close in the veteran’s chase for horses aged 10 and older.
The experiment of making the running with Henry King was hardly a success at Wincanton last time but the heavy ground was all against and I hope to be presenting the prize to connections of the Victor Dartnell trained six-year-old in the wake of the StanJames Supports Greatwood Novices’ Handicap Hurdle due off at 2.05. The unexposed Osric looks the danger.
As a son of Flemensfirth Ballybriggan (2.55) ought to appreciate the decent ground forecast at Town Moor Doncaster and he can break his maiden tag at the fourth attempt in the novice hurdle.
The Grimthorpe Chase sees Grand National hopefuls Comply Or Die (2008 Aintree winner); Cloudy Lane, Possol and Air Force One all have their final prep race before next month’s feature. It looks an impossible puzzle to solve and from a betting angle I am more interested in the progressive Sa Suffit (3.35) at Kelso.
The selection has yet to race over a distance in excess of 2m 4f but he looked ready for a step up in trip and class when sprinting away from Battlecry at Wetherby. Local handler James Ewart has his string in great shape and stable star Sa Suffit can oblige before stepping up in grade again at one of the big end-of-season festivals.
The Nationals come thick and fast at this time of the year and after the Kent and Ulster Nationals midweek we have the Leinster National from Naas on Sunday.
Top-weight Rare Bob (4.00) had a racecourse gallop after racing at Leopardstown last week and went into many a fictitious notebook mine included. Despite having a number of options at Cheltenham later in the month this is a valuable prize and this Grade 1 novice winner could easily outclass his field.
Teenager Our Armageddon is due to have his first start for 757 days for Richard Guest and his wonderful owner Leslie Garratt at Huntingdon tomorrow. It would be a wonderful training performance by Guesty if he could get him back in the winner’s enclosure, but he has been given a chance by the handicapper and at his best he would have murdered this lot. Watch the market.