Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Uttoxeter and Kempton. View selections below
David Pipe has saddled the winner of the Midlands National for the last four years but the stable are without a runner for this year’s renewal which is the feature of Uttoxeter’s flagship meeting of the year.
The ill-fated subsequent Gold Cup winner Synchronised back in 2010 gave AP McCoy his only previous winner of this thorough test of stamina and the 19-time Champion jockey rides Catching On who is 7lbs well-in having been raised 13lbs for his facile Exeter success earlier in the month. Jonjo O’Neill’s charge runs under a 6lb penalty but at 4/1 with BetVictor that is too short in such a competitive event especially for a horse who jumped poorly early on at Exeter although in the end he did run out a ready winner.
There hasn’t been an Irish winner of the event since Ruby Walsh rode GVA Ireland to success back in 2006 but the eye is drawn to Goonyella (3.50) who looks fairly handicapped for Jim Draper and at 14/1 with BetVictor can reward each way support. The selection finished third at a foggy Goran Park in the Thyestes Chase last time and has always suggested that he had a big staying chase in him; let’s hope today is the day.
There is a very competitive valuable Novices’ Handicap Chase; Bandit Country will be popular for McCoy but he has been put up 10lbs for his Newbury success last month and preference is for Algernon Pazham (2.40) for Nigel Twiston-Davies whose string didn’t exactly fire at Cheltenham.
The selection finished runner up at Haydock last time over an extended 2m 4f and a return to 3m will suit this progressive 6-year-old and his excellent conditional takes off a valuable 5lbs.
Having backed Begged To Differ (3.15) in his last couple of starts I am loath to desert him now despite the fact that he is 9lbs higher than when scoring at Carlisle last time on his handicap debut. This is a step up in class and trip but he might have more to offer and the hat-trick beckons.
Sue Smith’s De Vous A Moi (4.25) has been raised 10lbs for scoring at Catterick last month but the 7-y-old once finished runner up in a Grade 2 Chase at Auteuil back in 2012. That Catterick effort represented a return to form and there is no reason to believe he can’t follow up although this is a much better race.
There is a cracking card at Kempton and a chance is taken on Alavain (2.20) in one of the consolation races for horse balloted out of the Festival handicaps; the selection finished runner up to Regal Encore in a Pertemps qualifier on his belated seasonal reappearance at Exeter and a 3lb rise looks fair.
The ground is currently good at Kempton and Houston Dynimo (3.30) is the each way shout in a cracking handicap chase for David Pipe returning from a four-month lay-off. The selection has avoided winter ground, goes well fresh and should have the race run to suit.
Port Melon (4.05) disappointed at Cheltenham when sent off favourite for a Grade 2 over 3m and this drop back in trip should suit the Paul Nicholl’s trained son of Presenting who will appreciate today’s decent ground.
Representingceltic (4.40) got touched off at Plumpton last time and has been raised 4lbs for that effort but there might just be more to come from the 10-year-old who is lightly raced for one of his years.