Newbury stage their Greatwood (rehabilitation of retired racehorses) Charity Day at Newbury tomorrow and the feature event has gone to Paul Nicholls on three occasions in the last four years and the Champion trainer, who face a race against time to get Kauto Star fit for the Gold Cup, saddles three of the 13-strong field.
Pasco finished runner up behind stablemate Big Fella Thanks in the corresponding race in 2010, but Ruby Walsh partners Aerial who was well held at Cheltenham last time having won well at Ascot on his penultimate start. As a 6-y-o he is open to significant improvement, and holds an engagement at the Festival later in the month, but last year’s winner Fine Parchment (3.10) looks well treated with a decent conditional taking off a valuable 10lbs. The young jockey rode a chase winner for the yard at Lingfield earlier in the week and in a cracking contest he can reward each way support.
Marufo (2.40) was a horse I followed when trained by Heather Dalton and looked to be coming to the boil for Philip Hobbs when third in a decent race at Sandown last time. The drying ground will suit this son of Presenting and these veterans’ chasers have been an excellent innovation over the last few years.
I noticed Pepite Rose (4.55) over hurdles earlier in the season on heavy ground and felt she would always make a better chaser; she trotted up at Bangor earlier in the week on her chase debut and looked to have more in hand than the 7lb penalty she carries today. One word of caution she did dive at a couple of her early fences but she appreciated the better ground and her jumping improved as the race went on.
The concluding event looks a very good race with a number also entered in the Festival Bumper in less than a fortnight’s time including My Tent Or Yours (5.30) who made a winning debut at Ludlow over Xmas. The selection is currently 25/1 with BetVictor for Cheltenham and an impressive showing could see those odds contract.
Grand National winner Ballabriggs makes his belated seasonal reappearance at Kelso in a fascinating contest. Donald McCain’s 11-y-old will peak at Aintree but this is an ideal starting point and he is not just a dour stayer, but marginal preference is for Master Of The Hall (4.10) who is one of two Nicky Henderson runners at the meeting both ridden by AP McCoy who makes a rare journey to the Scottish Borders.
At Lingfield Barbarella Blue (3.20) will appreciate the step up to a mile having showed distinct signs of ability over 7f at Kempton on debut. David Elsworth has a well-bred newcomer making her racecourse debut and a check on the market is advised.
Only ten days to Cheltenham and we are Non Runner No Bet at betvictor.com for all 27 races at the Festival and, from 9am Monday 5th March, if you place a £20 bet on the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle we will give you a £20 free bet for Day 2 of Cheltenham irrespective of whether your horse wins or loses the Festival curtain-raiser. This offer is open to new and existing customers.