Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Aintree, Wincanton and Kelso. View selections below.
The brilliant grey Simonsig (2.30) makes his long-awaited return to the track after a 970-day absence at Aintree this afternoon in an enthralling five-runner hurdle over 2m 4f. Trainer Nicky Henderson also saddles former Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth and should know where he stands with Royal Boy who he also trained when last seen on the track back in January 2014.
Only one horse (Fingal Bay) has ever beaten the selection under rules and the 9-year-old is the subject of some upbeat reports from the Lambourn trainer. A dual former Cheltenham Festival winner it is possible that he may need the outing, but he receives 4lbs from Purple Bay, who is actually officially rated 3lbs higher than the grey, and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t go very close.
Henderson saddles Caracci Apache in the next and he is likely to go off a short priced favourite but I favour winning Irish point-to-pointer Spookydooky (1.20) brought along steadily over timber for Jonjo O’Neill. The selection has the scope to make up into a decent handicap chaser and Barry Geraghty takes over in the saddle form the first time.
Upepito (3.05) lost little in defeat when runner up at Wetherby on his first start for Dan Skelton (winner Village Vic runs Musselburgh Friday) and that effort suggested today’s 2m 4f trip was well within his compass. Bridget Andrew’s claim negates the slight rise in the weights and further rain would not inconvenience.
At Wincanton the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase is worth the admission money alone. Long House Hall unseated early at Cheltenham last month but followed the field until he took a crunching fall two, and a clear round will surely be the primary objective. Junction Fourteen put together an exemplary round of jumping when making all at Uttoxeter on his chase debut but that was in handicap company and he must give 6lbs to Arpege D’Alene (1.30) from the yard of Paul Nicholls and that might prove decisive.
The selection won two of three over timber last season, both going right-handed, and is already 16/1 for the RSA Chase with BetVictor in the spring such is his potential over the larger obstacles. Warrantor represents the inform yard of Warren Greatrex and is another chasing debutant who could go to the very top over fences; a top class renewal but the champion trainer has saddled the winner six times in the last nine years with such types as Silviniaco Conti (2011) and he often targets his best novice at this event.
The Badger Ales is one of the highlights of the Wincanton season and the eye is drawn to The Ould Lad (2.05) near the foot of the weights making his debut for Nicholls. The selection has yet to prove he stays this 3m 1f trip but he is certainly at the right end of the handicap and has always threatened to make up into a decent chaser.
The ground, at the time of writing, is currently good to soft which is fine although I would be concerned if conditions deteriorate markedly. He is 7/2 at BetVictor and although that looks skinny in a 13-runner handicap he could be very well treated off his current mark.
The Elite Hurdle is a cracker and Zarib (3.15) despite being 1lb out of the weights can score for Dan Skelton. Paul Nicholls is doubly represented with Irving and All Yours who is the choice of stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies but he must give 13lbs to the selection who is 5/2 at BetVictor.
At Kelso Throthethatch (1.05) represents the red-hot stable of Lucinda Russell and made a winning debut over the larger obstacles when scoring at Perth from an 8lb lower mark in the spring. As a winning pointer in his native Ireland he was always going to make a better chaser than hurdler and he is taken to defy the rise.