Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Newbury and Newcastle. View selections below
The Hennessy Gold Cup today’s Newbury highlight is one of the big betting races of the year and is a very tricky puzzle to solve although it doesn’t look a particularly good renewal with the top-weight Cape Tribulation rated 158.
I have reservations about the well-being of the Alan King yard which tempers confidence in antepost favourite Invictus although there are bits of form which suggest he could be thrown in from his current mark. This has long been the plan and the handicapper has certainly taken a chance dropping him 5lbs when you think his last start was when he was 3L too strong for Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth at Ascot albeit 650 days ago.
First time out is the time to catch Our Father for the David Pipe stable and he looks a big danger, Hadrian’s Approach has been deserted by Barry Geraghty which has come as a shock to his antepost backers, but if he puts in a clear round he must go very close as he is weighted to reverse RSA Chase form with Lord Windermere on today’s revised terms.
Highland Lodge (3.00) failed by less than 2L to give 26lbs to subsequent Badger Beer Chase winner Standing Ovation at Wincanton with the third 28 lengths away and, despite a 7lb rise; he gets the each way vote. Trainer Emma Lavelle ran the horse thinking he needed to win to get into the race but, as things have panned out, he would have comfortably got into the race without running at Wincanton. A resolute galloper and lovely jumper he will need to improve again in this company but, with the yard continuing to fire in the winners, he can make them all go if getting into a nice rhythm for Leighton Aspell who rides the 7-y-o for the first time with Aidan Coleman claimed to ride Katenko. The selection is 10/1 at BetVictor and note the market mover since the declarations were announced has been Loch Ba 20s from 33/1 for Mick Channon.
The Druids Nephew (1.20) was backed as if defeat was out of the question at Stratford on his reappearance and he was never happy after an early mistake; I believe he has to be ridden more prominently this afternoon and he remains a horse of some potential for a stable who had a winner at Lingfield earlier in the week.
At Fishers Cross (2.25) is ridden by Barry Geraghty for the first time in the Long Distance Hurdle as AP McCoy is at Newcastle for the Fighting Fifth; the selection receives 4lbs from both last season’s World Hurdle runner up Celestial Halo and recent French Grade 1 winner Reve De Sivola and I would be disappointed if he were not able to take his winning sequence to seven. The brilliant Big Buck’s has won this Grade 2 contest for the last four years and I hope the Rebecca Curtis-trained 6-y-o can put down a mark to both reigning World Hurdle Champion Solwhit and Big Buck’s who, hopefully, will return to the track soon.
Next Sensation (3.35) has been raised two stones by the handicapper for his two wins this season but he is best followed until beaten; he ran away with a Newcastle handicap last time in a fast time without coming out of a canter. This is a big step up in class for the horse and the Scudamore brothers’ trainer Michael and jockey Tom. By the way Michael is a Liverpudlian whilst Tom is an Evertonian so after last week’s 3-3 draw between the sides at least they will be still speaking to each other!
Fighting Fifth Day at Newcastle and Presented, back on a decent surface, can recoup recent Hexham losses and land the handicap chase due off at 12.35. The selection is a winning point-to-pointer who lost his way last season on heavy ground but should appreciate today’s better ground for Brian Ellison who has such a good record of improving horses he receives from other yards.
Oscar Rock will be a warm order in the Novices’ Hurdle for Malcolm Jefferson but I am a big fan of Ballyalton (1.05) and with McCoy getting the leg up he can cause a shock; the selection came home 15L clear at Uttoxeter and was always held in some regard by Ian Williams.
I like the look of Palos Conti dropping back in trip in the 2m 4f handicap Chase having run out of petrol at Wetherby over an extended 3m last time, but the nod goes to See What Happens (1.35) who was given an ordinary ride by Denis O’Regan last time at Bangor.
In the big one it is hard to oppose My Tent Or Yours (2.05) who is my antepost selection for the Champion Hurdle; Melodic Rendezvous and Duke Of Navan can follow the selection home but connections will be bitterly disappointed if he is beaten in an excellent renewal of this prestigious Grade 1 contest.
Hey Big Spender (2.40) won the Rehearsal Chase back in 2011 and can race off a 10lb lower mark this afternoon; I was surprised that the handicapper saw fit to drop him 2lbs after what I thought was an excellent reappearance, albeit in a veteran’s Chase, at Aintree. Vintage Star is another who has done well at the hands of the handicapper as I am surprised he has been left on the same mark for winning at Carlisle last time. He and Baile Anrai at the foot of the weights are big dangers in a terrific renewal of this famous race.