Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Newbury and Leopardstown. View selections below
A wonderful days racing from Newbury on Saturday with something for everyone; the Denman Chase is not a vintage renewal with Long Run bypassing the event but it will be fascinating to see the Betfair Chase winner Silviniaco Conti (2.25) on the track again after his mid-winter break. I was surprised that trainer Paul Nicholls swerved the King George on Boxing Day (he earmarked Al Ferof for the race before he got injured) and the Champion trainer insists he won’t have him fully wound up with the Gold Cup his primary objective. That said I would be surprised if he met with defeat with last year’s Gold Cup runner up The Giant Bolster 4lbs better off for the 7lbs he was beaten at Haydock earlier in the season.
The brilliant Simonsig misses the Game Spirit Chase which is a concern for those who have backed him antepost for the Arkle although trainer Nicky Henderson insists his poor trachea wash earlier in the week was nothing to be too concerned about. In his absence Wishfull Thinking looks to have a simple task on official figures but he stopped as if shot at Kempton last time and the form of the Hobbs’ yard tempers confidence further.
Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have won seven of the last eight renewals of the race and French Opera (3.00) is the call; the selection was beaten 6L in the corresponding race last year by Sprinter Sacre but won the corresponding race in 2011 and receives weight from all but one of today’s rivals; he would prefer better ground but that can be said about the majority of the field.
My Tent Or Yours has long been my fancy for the Betfair Hurdle but he was raised 9lbs to a mark of 149 after Huntingdon and he no longer represents value at 4/1 in a 23-runner field. That said in the week when connections lost Darlan, who looked like winning the corresponding race last year before falling two out, he would be a fitting winner for all involved.
Cotton Mill has been very well supported on his belated seasonal reappearance for John Ferguson and he is unexposed at the trip; his young conditional takes off a valuable 3lbs and he must go close as the dogs have been barking his name for some time. The unbeaten Swing Bowler is a fascinating contender and I would be keen on Village Vic were it not for the current form of the Hobbs’ yard and the nod in a wonderful betting event goes to Pearl Swan (3.35) representing Champion trainer Nicholls.
Successful with Zarkandar in the corresponding event last year Nicholls has three strings to his bow and the selection caught the eye in an all-weather Bumper at Kempton recently when making a belated seasonal reappearance following a wind operation in the summer. He was just short of top class in the juvenile division last year and if his wind op brings about a bit of improvement he must run well and just gets the nod in a vintage renewal.
I’m not convinced Unioniste is an out and out stayer and the Nicholls’ runner is worth taking on in the 3m Novice Chase; he is a class act but I am going to take a chance on Hadrian’s Approach (4.10) who was still going well when coming down four out over today’s C&D earlier in the season and meets nothing of the calibre of Dynaste who he was no match for at Kempton in Grade 1 company last time.
At Leopardstown the Irish Hennessy is the feature event on a cracking card in Ireland and Sir Des Champs (3.20) must be the call; jockey Davy Russell has expressed his concern with the prospect of holding ground but he made mistakes when a close fourth in the Lexus over C&D over Xmas and he can reverse that form with Flemenstar with doubts remaining over the latter’s ability to get the 3m trip.
The other Grade 1 is the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase; Ruby Walsh is at Newbury so Paul Townend is likely to be aboard Boston Bob who has been conspicuous by his absence since winning narrowly on his chase debut at Navan back In December. He will need better spring ground and marginal preference is for Lord Windermere (2.45), another who will want better ground to be seen at his best, who can reverse C&D form with Texas Jack from a fortnight ago.