Former Talksport presenter Charlie McCann previews Saturday’s and Sunday’s cards at Ascot, Chepstow and Bangor with seven to follow.
Hardly a vintage weekend of racing but there are a couple of interesting jumps meetings and Ascot holds a competitive card this afternoon featuring a fascinating soft ground sprint over 6f which sees Redford stepping up in class having won a couple of the biggest handicaps of the season in successive weeks last month.
Richard Hughes who saw his appeal against a six-day ban fall on deaf ears at the BHA earlier in the week takes over and the genial Irishman will be certainly giving his best; he has promised to fight on in his quest for the jockeys’ title although it is very much advantage rival Paul Hanagan with his ban due to come into effect next weekend.
Redford looks the one to beat but as long as the ground doesn’t dry out too much a chance is taken on last year’s winner Royal Rock (3.05) who was a sick horse for much of the season and looks sure to come on a bundle for his belated seasonal reappearance at Yarmouth. High Standing is another to consider in an excellent end-of-season sprint but the hope is that Chris Wall’s six-year-old is fresher than most and can follow up last season’s victory.
The big betting race of the day is the 12f handicap where the progressive three-year-old Vulcanite (3.40) is on a four-timer and looks to have a cracking draw in another ultra-competitive heat. His best form is on fast ground but he won on rain-softened ground last time and most of his sire’s (Dubawi) off spring relish plenty of give in the ground. One slight reservation his successes have come in small fields and he faces 18 rivals this afternoon.
Masked Marvel (4.15) is currently 33/1 for the Derby with Stan James.com having won his sole start at Sandown when a well-backed favourite. Seven of the eight runners in the field won their previous start and three come into the event unbeaten so it is a very hot heat. The race has been won by some very good colts’ in the past including Nayef a decade ago and this looks a cracking renewal.
Paul Nicholls likes to have winners at the first jumps card of the season at Chepstow and the champion trainer has runners in all seven races on a fascinating card. Merehead (5.45) looks a good thing in the finale but the weekend nap is given to his West Country neighbour Philip Hobbs who also has a strong raiding party crossing the Severn Bridge.
Karasenir (2.50) showed plenty of promise in bumpers but improved for eight flights of hurdles when destroying his field at Market Rasen a couple of weeks ago. He needs to improve again to follow up in this class but he looked a novice of some potential at the Lincolnshire track and is worth following.
There is a cracking novice chase at Bangor-on-Dee where Pouvoir is reported to have come on for his recent Uttoxeter success. Paul Nicholls is double-handed including the likely favourite Otage De Brion but Tara Royal (5.15) was most impressive over the Haydock fences when last seen back in the spring and it looks significant that Donald McCain has booked AP McCoy for the ride in the absence of injured Jason Maguire.
Just For Men (3.10 Hexham) ran his best race first time out last season, and whilst many may think it folly to recommend a horse who hasn’t won for almost three years the hope is that Graham Lee can coax the grey’s head in front in a race that really shouldn’t take too much winning.