Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Sandown and Chepstow. View selections below
With only ten days to the Cheltenham Festival the racing, almost by definition, is not out of the top-drawer this weekend but there is still some excellent sport to get our teeth into beginning at Doncaster where I hope course specialist Victor Hewgo (1.45) can give weight to his three rivals in the opener. The selection lost nothing in defeat when going down by less than a length to Holywell last month and he can give the 7lbs to winning pointer Cowards Close who represents the powerful yard of Paul Nicholls.
The Grimthorpe is the feature race and it is an excellent renewal which could have some bearing on next month’s Grand National. Court By Surprise is 12lb better off with Night In Milan on course form and the booking of Barry Geraghty suggests a big run is expected, but Monbeg Dude (3.30) is high on my National shortlist and I would be disappointed if he didn’t go very close for Michael Scudamore. A former winner of the Welsh National Paul Carberry comes over from Ireland for the mount on a horse who would not be inconvenienced if the forecast showers became more frequent.
Geraghty rides Tistory (4.40) and the better ground will suit Nicky Henderson’s charge who ran well under a penalty at Newbury last time. He must give weight away all-round but he is held in some regard at Seven Barrows and can see off Minella Friend who has not yet delivered over timber for Evan Williams.
A cracking card at Newbury for the excellent charity Greatwood, who do such a wonderful job caring for retired ex-racehorses, and I hope they have a very profitable day. In the veterans’ chase Carruthers is still 4lbs higher than when winning the Hennessy over C&D back in 2011 but he gets on well with new pilot Nico de Boinville and if getting a soft lead will be hard to peg back.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies yard are hitting form at just the right time, especially if you are a supporter of The New One in the Champion Hurdle, and the mare Tara Rose (3.50) can defy her near three-month absence from the track in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase. She has winning form on soft ground and can reward each way support.
Taking of the New One and we have opened a market at BetVictor as to who will go off favourite for the Champion Hurdle in ten days’ time and I had to do a double take when I saw that Hurricane Fly was 7/4 behind The New One 6/4 with Our Conor 5s, My Tent Or Yours 7s and 12s Bar. I think this is an ideal opportunity to get your Festival off to a nice start! I’m not sure The Fly will win but surely he is the one to beat and must go off market leader?
If Smart Money was more amenable to restraint he would be something to bet on in the next but I am going to give Un Bon P’Tit Gars (4.25) another chance for Nick Williams. The selection looked a horse with a future when scoring at Uttoxeter over timber back in 2012 but has been lightly raced of late and has obviously had his problems.