Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Newmarket, Santa Anita and Wetherby on Saturday. View selections below.
LONG RUN (3.35) has Wetherby’s feature bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at his mercy after the decision to keep top Irish challenger First Lieutenant on home soil. Nicky Henderson has altered the dual King George and 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero’s early-season schedule, opting to come here rather than Haydock’s Betfair Chase later this month. Long Run has failed to win first time up for the past three years but has run into the likes of Kauto Star and Silviniaco Conti at Haydock. There is nothing of that calibre in opposition here, although Unioniste and course and distance winner Cape Tribulation are capable of making it an exciting spectacle.
At Fishers Cross is many people’s idea of a future World Hurdle winner following last year’s heroics, principally when defeating The New One in Cheltenham’s Classic Hurdle, winning the Albert Bartlett at the Festival then mopping up the John Smith’s Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Striking a cautionary note, trainer Rebecca Curtis has warned her stable star may just need this run. Of course, that qualification could equally apply to chief rival TIDAL BAY (3.00), but there was no sign of cobwebs 12 months ago when Paul Nicholls’ veteran chopped down Crack Away Jack on the run-in to score by almost five lengths. Tidal Bay chased home subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Bobs Worth in the Hennessy Gold Cup trying to concede 6lb, then won an epic Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. He sets a lofty standard for At Fishers Cross to pass.
The concluding handicap hurdle will ensure a more open market and ARDLUI (4.05) can continue Alan King’s fine start to the new campaign. His dual-purpose stayer probably ran his best race over hurdles at Newbury last autumn when third behind At Fishers Cross and another subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner, Salubrious.
At Newmarket, FRENCH NAVY (3.30) should make a bold bid to repeat last year’s comfortable success in the Ben Marshall Stakes, a Listed one-mile contest. He was always travelling well that day, readily pulling three lengths clear of Red Jazz, and this looks easier than his latest venture in the Group 3 Darley Stakes when fourth to Highland Knight. The extra furlong just seemed to find him out and this mile is ideal.
The Breeders’ Cup seems to be losing some of its lustre and it will be interesting to see how betting turnover stands up. There is still plenty to absorb trans-Atlantic punters and Sir Michael Stoute’s Dank is all the rage in the Fillies’ and Mares’ Turf over 10f. She was particularly impressive in the Beverly D Stakes at Arlington and is clearly a good traveller. She will go off at short odds, however, and ROMANTICA (7.43) appeals from an each-way angle at around 5-1 with most firms. The Santa Anita track will be riding slick and the French raider possesses a decisive turn of foot on fast ground.
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