Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Newbury and Newcastle on Saturday. View selections below.
THE DRUIDS NEPHEW (3.00) makes plenty of each-way appeal in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday. Having joined Neil Mulholland from Andy Turnell this season, the seven-year-old has been campaigned with a big handicap chase in mind and The Druids Nephew hinted that he could mix it with some of the best with a sterling run behind Sam Winner at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power fixture. Barry Geraghty gave The Druids Nephew a fine stalking ride over the 3m 3f trip but possibly allowed Sam Winner a bit too much rope. Davy Russell crosses the Irish Sea to take the mount this time and The Druids Nephew remains nicely handicapped. Hopefully, he will get further than his appearance at this fixture 12 months ago when falling at the first in the Fulke Walwyn Trophy! That was a rare blemish in the jumping department and he possesses the scope to serve it up to classy sorts Fingal Bay and Smad Place, both near the top of my shortlist. Djakadam heads the market but no five-year-old has lifted this great race and Willie Mullins, while virtually unstoppable over hurdles, has a shocking strike-rate in British handicap chases (0-65) in recent years.
Whatever the fate of Fingal Bay and Smad Place, their hot trainers Philip Hobbs and Alan King can hit the scoreboard. The latter saddles TURN OVER SIVOLA (12.50) in the Bet365.com Novices’ Handicap Chase and his top weight met an improving sort in Solar Impulse at Wetherby. Turn Over Sivola was matching strides with the likes of top novices Hinterland and Dodging Bullets last year and will appreciate this slight drop in class.
Hobbs and Richard Johnson have kept their legion of supporters in funds throughout the early weeks of the season and BERTIE BORU (1.20) can further boost the pre-Christmas kitty. He made a winning return at Stratford, narrowly accounting for Anquetta after an exciting tussle. Anquetta was still travelling strongly when falling three out in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Cheltenham won by another Hobbs inmate, Bold Henry, so the form looks solid.
The StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle has predictably cut up but that won’t worry Paul Nicholls as he seeks to restore the confidence of IRVING (2.05) after his crashing last-flight fall at Wincanton three weeks ago. Irving went to Cheltenham in March with a tall reputation after mopping up all four of his UK starts, but ran inexplicably poorly behind Vautour in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Irving clearly wasn’t himself that day and would probably have made a winning reappearance but for his unfortunate exit at Wincanton. Mullins sends over Arctic Fire, while John Quinn holds four-year-old Aurore d’Estruval in high regard.
The At The Races Rehearsal Chase could see HEY BIG SPENDER (2.40) notch a remarkable third success in the race. Colin Tizzard’s veteran lifted the prize last year, supplementing his 2011 triumph, and will have been teed up for his hat-trick bid with a recent outing at Aintree behind Lie Forrit. Lucinda Russell’s chaser reopposes on 5lb worse terms but remains a big threat.
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