Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with Ten to follow on Saturday at Cheltenham, Doncaster, Lingfield and Southwell. View selections below
Some magnificent racing this weekend and we start our preview at Cheltenham where the feature race is the Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup which sees the return to the track of Salut Flo (2.25) who is returning from a 639-day lay-off for David Pipe having been a significant absentee for the Paddy Power last month.
The selection has gone very well fresh in the past and is only 7lbs higher than when running away with the Byrne Group Plate at last year’s Festival. He has obviously had his training problems and first time out might be the time to catch him with the forecast good ground ideal.
AP McCoy takes over on Colour Squadron and is taken to reverse last month’s form with Johns Spirit who is 2lbs worse off; Paul Nicholls has saddled the winner of the race three times in the last four years and he is represented by Grandioso but he was below par on his only previous start at Cheltenham and may prefer a faller track.
Stewart Family Thank You Gold Cup: prices from BetVictor:
Johns Spirit 5/1
Colour Squadron 5/1
Salut Flo 10/1
The New One was, visually, very impressive when winning at Kempton on his reappearance and is 4/9 to land the International Hurdle but last year’s winner Zarkandar (5/2) beat the favourite at Aintree over 2m 4f back in the spring and he will be hard to pass. There is unlikely to be as much between them as the betting would suggest and, at the current prices, the Nicholls horse must be the recommendation.
Kings Palace (1.50) couldn’t have been more impressive when scoring here back in October although it should be noted that the runner up (Creepy) palpably failed to stay although he has, subsequently, franked the form back at 2m 5f.
At Doncaster I like the booking of Noel Fehily for Presence Felt stepping back up in trip but I felt Fix It Right (11.55) had more to offer when scoring over C&D last time and can confirm the form with runner up Any Given Day on 4lb worse terms.
The BetVictor Summit Juvenile Hurdle looks at the mercy of unbeaten Royal Irish Hussar (2.05) who loves decent ground and is likely to be out away for the winter before being prepared for the Triumph for which he is currently priced at 10/1 with BetVictor (Non Runner Free Bet).
Off The Ground (2.40) has been raised 15lbs by the handicapper for his facile win over C&D last just over a fortnight ago but, as long as the ground remains good, he can follow up in a fascinating little race.
Baile Anrai (3.15) ran a cracker back over fences against two well-handicapped rivals at Newcastle two weeks ago and can race off the same mark today in the concluding 3m Chase. There is plenty of pace in the race and I wouldn’t like the selection to get embroiled in a battle for the lead with Night In Milan.
Mentalist (12.50) will be more at home at Lingfield on soft ground than he was at Kempton on his reappearance and he can give the Venetia Williams team a welcome winner. The mare Time To Think tends to need her seasonal reappearance but will love the ground and is one to keep in mind if there is market confidence.
Good card at Navan on Sunday and I have always felt Sizing Gold (2.15) would make up into a good chaser having just been short of top class over the smaller obstacles. Jessica Harrington’s Operating and fellow chase debutant Folsom Blue should ensure the selection goes off a backable price in a hot Beginners’ Chase.
Cappa Bleu (2.05) runner up in the Grand National back in the spring can land the Novices’ Hurdle at Southwell for Evan Williams; the selection is entitled to come on for his reappearance at Carlisle and this looks and ideal opportunity.