Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up six tips on Saturday at Newbury and Lingfield. View selections below.
CHELTENIAN (3.35), a somewhat ‘forgotten’ horse since being sidelined by injury, can make up for lost time by scooping the Betfair Hurdle at sodden Newbury.
Philip Hobbs has nursed his 2011 Champion Bumper winner back to full fitness following an injury sustained in last season’s William Hill Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Cheltenian duly romped home in the mud on his reappearance at Uttoxeter on New Year’s eve, easily beating a poor bunch of maidens. The trainer has since kept him under wraps to preserve a tasty-looking mark and the eight-year-old could well be a blot on the handicap. This race is always won by classy sorts who progress to even better things and Dell’ Arca is another horse whose career could be on a sharp upward curve. The ex-French novice acclimatised quickly to his new West Country surroundings, repaying a chunk of his £200,000 price tag by landing the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham on his debut for David Pipe. The five-year-old was fancied to follow up in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot, only to unship his rider when swerving to avoid a faller. Gary Moore has a good record in this race and Chris Pea Green could run well at big odds given his liking for deep ground.
Paul Nicholls fields his customary strong Saturday string on a superb card and, for obvious reasons, the master trainer will be particularly keen to land the Betfair Denman Chase with Al Ferof. The grey puts his Cheltenham credentials on the line but another Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer in the shape of Kim Bailey could well upset the applecart with HARRY TOPPER (2.25). Winner of the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on his reappearance, Harry Topper was finishing to some effect when trying to concede plenty of weight to The Giant Bolster and Rocky Creek at Cheltenham and will serve it up to Al Ferof on desperate ground if jumping with more fluency.
Steadily-improving ANDY KELLY (1.50) gets the nod in the three-mile handicap hurdle. This is a tough ask for a five-year-old under these conditions but he showed battling qualities when just denied by Bygones Sovereign at Ascot and the winner has run well since off a much higher mark to advertise the form.
Nicholls saddles another potential classy winner in DODGING BULLETS (3.00). Formerly known as the Game Spirit Chase, this is one of the last recognised Arkle trials for Cheltenham and Dodging Bullets is seeking his fourth straight victory over fences after putting Grandouet to the sword at Kempton over Christmas.
The all-weather could come to the rescue if further rain wipes out the Newbury programme and PERFECT PASTURE (3.45) bids to extend his amazing winning streak to a Magnificent 7 for Mick Easterby. The handicapper has lobbed another 7lb on to his mark but, from a rail draw, Perfect Pasture may well be able to supplement January’s impressive course and distance triumph.
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