Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Kelso, Doncaster and Newbury. View selections below
Newbury stage its card for Greatwood, the Rehabilitation centre for retired racehorses, on Saturday and the feature is the Greatwood Gold Cup due to be run on perfect good to soft ground and it is wonderful to write about racing with good in the going description after a winter of soft, heavy and waterlogged!
Venetia Williams’ string remain in cracking form and her mare Pepite Rose (3.50) will come into Saturday’s feature fresher than most returning from a three-month lay-off and she will appreciate the better ground; the selection could hardly have been more impressive when scoring in a valuable mare’s race last spring off a 9lb lower mark at the Berkshire track and the drop back in trip is not a concern.
This is a much tougher race of course with Midnight Sail and Mr Gardner the alternatives although Paul Nicholls has saddled the winner four times in the last five years and he is doubly represented by The Knoxs, well handicapped if he can get his jumping together, and Pacha Du Polder who will love the drying ground.
I should know enough about veterans’ races and think that back on a left-handed track on decent ground Michel Le Bon (2.40) can take the beating; the selection was never really travelling at Wincanton last time but he has run well in all four starts at Newbury including when beaten less than 20 lengths in the Hennessy in 2011 over today’s C&D; he didn’t appear an out and out stayer on that occasion but is 6lb lower in a weaker race and can finally land a big one for Paul Nicholls.
I am drawn to the chances of Mr Moss (2.55) in the Grimthope Chase at Doncaster despite being harshly raised 2lbs for finishing 3rd at Wetherby on ground softer than ideal back in November; the selection has avoided the worst of the winter weather and will be another big price against some decent sorts including Grand National fancy Join Together only 2lbs higher than when finishing runner in the Becher Chase on his last outing. It is interesting that Ruby Walsh comes to Town Moor for the ride and you get the impression Join Together is high on the list of his possible National mounts although I and my pocket hope On His Own is his Aintree mount.
Toubab (2.20) needs 2miles on good or faster ground to be seen at his best and he has bits of form which suggest he could be well treated despite being burdened with top-weight. He has been dropped 2lb in the handicap for his Sandown effort last month, but that was run on heavy ground and I expect to see a much-improved performance back on a sound surface.
Nicky Richards’ has two potential stars on his hands and Eduard (3.40) cannot be opposed at Kelso although he is likely to find the 2m 2f trip on the sharp side given connections sider him a potential World Hurdle candidate next season. Brick Red has had a number of hard races so far this season and was easily put in his place by Forgotten Voice at Kempton last weekend; as long as there is plenty of cut in the ground I would be very disappointed if Eduard couldn’t maintain his progressive profile en route to Aintree next month.
There is a great race at Kelso where former National winner Ballabriggs, Harry Topper and Bold Sir Brian meet in the Listed Chase; Harry Topper (4.15) gets the vote even though he gives 10lbs to Ballabriggs who has been nibbled at for Aintree since the announcement of the weights last month. The selection is reported to be the best horse through the hands of trainer Kim Bailey since Gold cup winner Master Oats and is unbeaten in three starts over fences this term.
Less than two weeks to the Cheltenham Festival and we are Non Runner No Bet on all races at betvictor.com; even further ahead and we have seen support for the Sir Michael Stoute trained Telescope for the Derby in recent days and he is into 8/1 for the Epsom Classic.