Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Newbury, Bangor and Stratford. View selections below
A cracking jumps card at Newbury this afternoon beginning with a Novices’ Hurdle over the minimum trip and the progressive Sign Of A Victory (1.50) looks to have been very well placed by trainer Nicky Henderson and is taken to land his hat-trick having landed a Bumper at Kempton and a Novice Hurdle at Doncaster in his last two starts.
If impressing today it would be no surprise to see the 5-y-o upped in class at Aintree or Punchestown next month, but this is no straight forward task with decent flat performers Huff And Puff and She’s Late showing plenty of promise already over timber.
The mare Pepite Rose scored on this card last year off a 10lbs lower mark and she will appreciate today’s better ground but I felt Balzaccio (2.20) travelled very well on ground softer than ideal at Southwell last time and looks very well handicapped on his best form for Alan King. His new handler Fergal O’Brien has had an excellent season and Balzaccio looks sure to run well off bottom weight.
The Tom George yard had a cross-the-card double on Thursday and a chance is taken on Sivola De Sivola (3.30) in the Handicap Chase returning from a near three month absence. The ground is key to his chances and he wouldn’t want any further rain on ground officially good (good to soft places) after 3.5 mls of rain on Thursday evening.
Highland Lodge is 6lbs lower than when finishing 4th in the Hennessy over C&D back in November and he will appreciate a return to better ground. The Emma Lavelle stable have returned to form in recent weeks and the top-weight is a big danger especially if getting an uncontested lead.
At Stratford My Flora (1.55) returns from a two-month break back over her optimum trip on decent ground and with the Dan Skelton yard in better form of late she must take the beating from a career low mark. Queen’s Bay is returning from a 430 day absence and might need the run but she is considered the danger although I am sweet on the chances of My Flora.
At Bangor Big Hands Harry (5.05) can land the Novice Hurdle for Nicky Henderson in a well above average contest; Donald McCain’s Take The Cash and the Rebecca Curtis-trained Monkey Kingdom also score last time out but only the yard’s Grade 1 winner Royal Boy has lowered the colours of the selection in three career starts and he can make it three wins from four this afternoon.
The handicapper may have taken a chance in dropping Imperial Vic (2.00) 3lbs since last his last run when the stable of Michael Smith were out of sorts; today’s better ground will suit and if you go back to the selection’s narrow defeat by Green Flag (receiving 7lbs) here earlier in the season you can see that there is evidence to suggest that a mark of 129 looks very attractive.
Un Guet Apens (3.05) will appreciate the return to a left-handed track having jumped out to the left at Carlisle on Sunday. Trainer James Ewart brings him out quickly which is a slight concern on ground faster than he has encountered to date but he is highly regarded by the yard and he must go close if over Sunday’s exertions.