Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Doncaster and Newbury on Saturday. View selections below.
BALLABRIGGS (3.50) can prove he is no back-number by returning to winning form in the StanJames Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury.
Donald McCain’s 12-year-old has been sparingly campaigned since landing the 2011 Grand National and will strip a lot sharper for a recent outing at Warwick when trailing home last of seven (not beaten too far) behind Molotov on heavy ground. Ballabriggs, also a previous Cheltenham Festival winner, is a confirmed Spring horse and he will be much more at home racing on decent ground/galloping track. Another Aintree stalwart, Big Fella Thanks, has been hit with a 9lb rise for his Wincanton victory in mid-January and must shoulder top weight.
In the Ladbrokes Supporting Greatwood handicap hurdle over two miles, red-hot trainer Venetia Williams can fire in another winner with French import TANGO DE JUILLEY (3.15). The five-year-old wasn’t particularly fancied in the betting for a competitive 2m 3f event at Ascot a fortnight ago won by outsider Kuilsriver but he didn’t fare badly until weakening from the second-last flight. The shorter trip will aid his cause in a wide-open event.
Feature race at Doncaster is the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase over 3m 2f and IKORODU ROAD (2.55) can make a bold bid to supplement last year’s thrilling victory over Junior. The South Yorkshire track has dried out, with good-to-firm conditions forecast, and this will suit my selection. There is little between Matt Sheppard’s gelding and Court By Surprise on their running here in mid-December over three miles, when just over a length covered the first five horses home.
Ruby Walsh is on duty for Paul Nicholls and the star team should not return south empty-handed. TOUBAB (2.20) faces six rivals in the TRM handicap chase over two miles and the top weight is taken to get his career back on track after flopping in the Sandown mud behind Eastlake. Toubab was just creeping into the Grand Annual at Cheltenham last March when brought down at the fourth last, then chased home Sprinter Sacre at Aintree.
Nicholls has kept dual Cesarewitch hero AAIM TO PROSPER (3.30) fairly busy and drops him into a handicap for the first time on a nice racing weight of 10st 8lb. Aaim To Prosper ran well here when third to Minella Forfitness, then caught a tartar in Up And Go at Ascot two weeks ago. He will surely appreciate this better ground and the step up to three miles.
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