With Wednesday’s jumps all abandoned, Paul Ferguson previews the weekend’s Newbury meeting and gives us one tip. Compare odds.
With the weather once again leaving us with just the one all-weather card, I’m taking this opportunity to take an early glance at the weekend action from Newbury and Leopardstown, where there should be plenty of Cheltenham Festival clues on offer.
Starting off with Newbury, which was last night trading odds on to beat the big freeze on the exchanges (earlier in the day had been 8/11 to be abandoned). The Berkshire venue’s inaugural Betfair Super Saturday has now been increased to an eight race card, with the inclusion of the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase that was lost when Sandown was called off last weekend. The fact that this is a Grade 1 contest now means that Ruby Walsh is free to ride, which is another bonus for punters.
The Festival pointers could begin as early as the first race when Simonsig finally gets the chance to strut his stuff over the minimum trip. The grey travelled like the drop back in trip would suit last time and, if he wins here, he’ll no doubt be towards the head of the Supreme Novices’ market. The pick of his potential opponents look to be Tolworth runner-up Colour Squadron and the exciting Montbazon, both of whom I have plenty of time for.
The aforementioned Scilly Isles comes next in which Feltham runner-up Silviniaco Conti looks the pick Paul Nicholls’ three entries. It’s interesting that the Champion Trainer hasn’t entered Cristal Bonus this week, as he was due represent the stable at Sandown.
The 3m handicap hurdle could give a hint or two towards the Pertemps Final, whilst the newly named Denman Chase looks an ideal opportunity for Gold Cup winner Long Run to get off the mark for the season. Despite having to carry a penalty, it will be disappointing if he can’t take care of this lot en route back to Cheltenham.
The Game Spirit Chase was re-opened yesterday but a maximum of six horses will take on crack novice pair Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card but it is these two unexposed chasers that stand out in this line-up. The former is clear favourite for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham and this looks the perfect stepping stone, especially if stable companion French Opera lines up and gives him a lead. It is impossible not to have been impressed with his two successes over fences to date and I was surprised to see him open up odds against last night. Therefore, he is the day’s nominated bet ante-post with William Hill at 5/4 as I can see him trading odds on come post time and he should have too much pace for Cue Card round here (bets will be refunded if the meeting is lost).
The valuable Betfair Hurdle comes next for which Champion Hurdle third favourite Zarkandar is perceived to be ‘well in’ by many, before all eyes will focus on to Grands Crus if David Pipe gives his RSA Chase favourite the go-ahead to take his chance in the 3m novice chase. Another impressive display could help sway connections down the Gold Cup route.
The hugely exciting card is rounded off by a Listed bumper that is well worth paying close attention to with the likes of Iris’s Gift, Mad Max and Al Ferof successful in recent seasons. Traditionally, this is one of the strongest races of its nature outside of the spring festivals, so have the Sky+ set for this one.
Over in Ireland on Sunday, Leopardstown stages four Grade 1’s, starting with the Spring Juvenile Hurdle, which will be the leading Triumph Hurdle trial that side of the Irish Sea. Sadly Minsk won’t be lining up, but Midnight Oil would be a hugely interesting debutant, though Willie Mullins is much more likely to rely on Ut De Sivola who is two from two since arriving from France.
The Deloitte Novice Hurdle is often the strongest Irish trial for the Festival novice hurdles and the fact that Nicky Henderson supplemented Captain Conan for the race yesterday will give us a chance to establish the strength of Irish form against our British form. The Tolworth winner should give us a guide to where we stand, which is unusual pre Cheltenham these days, and he faces a couple of smart and improving sorts in the shape of Cash And Go and Midnight Game. The latter’s stable-mate Sous Les Cieux should appreciate the extra quarter mile and it should prove a most informative contest.
Gigginstown House Stud look to hold a strong hand in the Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase with Last Instalment and Bog Warrior both entered. I’d be very surprised if the pair clashed and the bookmakers seem to think that the former, unbeaten in three starts over fences, will represent the owner. His jumping has been very good so far and he clearly sets the standard, though Lambro gave subsequent Irish Arkle winner Flemenstar a race last time and the step up in trip will bring about plenty of improvement. He looks the likely main danger and the ante-post prices seem about right at this stage.
Finally the Hennessy Gold Cup gives Quel Esprit the chance to put himself back on the map as a leading chaser, having won small races at Naas and Thurles so far this season. The grey clearly has a massive engine, but his jumping errors from last year remain in the back of the mind and he looks short enough now at 5/2 having been available at 4/1 a couple of days ago. A clear round would see him go very close, but hopefully he’ll ease out in the betting before race day. Quito De La Roque bids to reverse Christmas form with Synchronised and any easing of the ground will be in his favour whilst Jessies Dream is possibly the most interesting of the remainder, as we haven’t seen him since last year’s Festival. If Gordon Elliott has the nine-year-old fully tuned up (the betting should be a good guide to this) he is more than capable of being involved on his belated return.
Now, sit back and pray the frost stays away, as we potentially have two days of top-class racing waiting for us at the weekend, racing that would be fit for a Festival let alone act as trials for next month’s big meeting.
Sprinter Sacre @ 5/4 (William Hill) Betfair Super Saturday Chase, Newbury
Order Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2011-12
Available hot of the press on Oct 1 2011 – Only £9.95!
Send your name and address with a cheque payable to The Racing Insider for £9.95
The Racing Insider,
PO Box 98,
Liverpool L9 1WY
Last Year’s Tips Included 40 Leading Prospects: £499.80 profit to a level £10!
- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)