Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Doncaster and Cheltenham. View selections below
A wonderful days racing from Cheltenham (Festival Trials Day) and Doncaster and we begin in south Yorkshire where the SkyBet Chase is the feature race over 3m on ground likely to be extremely testing given there is 7mls of rain forecast on Friday evening.
Having backed the grey Yes Tom earlier in the week at 33/1 and 40/1 it would be fair to say I was disappointed that the dry weather forecast I read on Monday turned out to be well wide of the mark. Trainer Stuart Crawford brings the 10-year-old over from Northern Ireland but there must be a chance that he will bypass the race if the course gets the forecast rain.
Royal Player (3.15) lacks the experience of these big handicaps and is 10lbs higher than when scoring at Musselburgh last time but he looks a horse of some potential and stamina and you will certainly need plenty of the latter with a number of confirmed front-runners in the race. The Philip Hobbs trained runner is 8/1 at BetVictor and can reward each way support.
Solar Impulse (12.55) receives 3lbs from Three Kingdoms and I hope to see him go one better than when runner up to Josses Hill over C&D earlier in the month. At the time many race-readers crabbed the form but I remain a big fan of the winner and the selection was giving the Nicky Henderson Arkle hopeful 2lbs. Sam Twiston-Davies is required at Cheltenham so Nick Schofield takes over in the saddle on the Paul Nicholls’ trained 5-year-old.
Ruby Walsh rode Annie Power to victory for Willie Mullins in the Grade 2 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle 12 months ago and the same combination can follow up courtesy of Analifet (2.05) despite the fact that she must give weight to her six rivals. The selection would have been involved in the finish when coming down two out behind the impressive Carrigmorna Rock at Leopardstown over Xmas and she is taken to cope with the drop back to the minimum trip.
Blaklion (2.40) must give 3lbs to Zeroshadesofgrey in the Albert Bartlett Trial but I am convinced he is up to it with the return to 3m the key. Connections of Present View (also entered at Cheltenham) look to be trying to protect his handicap mark over fences and 3m and soft ground over hurdles is less than ideal although he is one to keep on the right side of on spring ground.
At Cheltenham I cannot desert Stellar Notion (1.15) despite having been put up 17lbs for his two fluent successes so far this season. The Tom George 7-year-old is unbeaten over the larger obstacles and entitled to further improvement although this will be the sternest test and softest ground he has encountered over fences. Venetia Williams has a great record in this race and the eye is drawn to Astigos at the foot of the weights dropping back in trip.
I’m not convinced Dynaste wants almost three-and-a-quarter miles on soft ground and I think Many Clouds (1.50) and The Giant Bolster can fight this out with marginal preference for the former. The selection won the Hennessy at Newbury back in November and if he is to be a genuine Gold Cup contender must go close in a fascinating race.
The Neptune Trial is a terrific renewal and Value At Risk (3.00) gets the vote for Dan and Harry Skelton. The selection finished third in the Punchestown Bumper last spring and won a small race at Newbury by a wide margin last month. This is a very hot race and we will know a lot more about his Festival credentials this afternoon.
Un Temps Pour Tout (3.35) receives weight from the other principles in the Cleeve Hurdle and the David Pipe-trained 6-y-old gets the vote stepping up to 3m for the first time. The selection is 16/1 for the World Hurdle at BetVictor and 5/2 for today’s Grade 2 and if he is to be a World Hurdle contender he must go close.