Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Sandown and Aintree on Saturday. View selections below.
VIBRATO VALTAT (3.00) bids to give Paul Nicholls an amazing 10th Betfair Tingle Creek Chase triumph and the master trainer will be smarting after drawing a very rare Saturday blank last weekend. Vibrato Valtat knows his way around Sandown having won the Henry VIII Chase last year and looked as good as ever on his comeback when bagging the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, another right-handed track. Soft ground is ideal and he will take a world of beating.
Simonsig, the brilliant 2013 Arkle Trophy winner, returned over hurdles at Aintree from an absence of almost 15 months and shaped well behind stablemate Bobs Worth. The 2m 4f trip definitely stretched his stamina to breaking point and Nicky Henderson’s exciting grey will be more at home over two miles.
The 2013 winner Sire De Grugy looked a shadow of his former self when tailed off behind Vibrato Valtat at Exeter but Gary Moore has been churning out the winners lately and an improved run is surely on the cards.
Special Tiara finished in front of Sire De Grugy when third to Dodging Bullets in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and trainer Henry De Bromhead mounted a successful UK raid last weekend when Identity Thief landed a touch in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. Special Tiara thumped Sprinter Sacre and Mr Mole in the Celebration Chase over course and distance in April but failed to sparkle on his recent Navan reappearance.
DEVILMENT (2.25) looks nailed on to give backers a great spin in the Listed handicap hurdle. John Ferguson’s four-year-old, an excellent fourth in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, beat Karezak on his comeback at Cheltenham in October and was given too much to do when held up on a return visit to contest the competitive Greatwood Hurdle at last month’s Paddy Power fixture. Devilment finished a never-nearer sixth to Old Guard that day and he holds one of his main rivals, Lil Rockerfella, on their running at Doncaster in February when Devilment conceded 7lb and handed out a four-length thrashing.
Nicholls’ Vicenzo Mio was an expensive flop here last month but runs off a featherweight and drops in trip. It will be interesting to see if punters are prepared to rush in again.
Ferguson also declared last year’s fourth RUACANA (1.20) for Devilment’s race but has re-directed the six-year-old towards the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle. Ruacana made a very pleasing return at Huntingdon, failing by one length to concede 8lb to Bivouac, with Lil Rockerfella third. Like Devilment, he has been saddled with top weight, but his class can win the day.
At Aintree, SAINT ARE (1.40) can further underline his reputation as a course specialist by serving it up to 16 rivals in the Betfred Becher Chase.
Saint Are has a stiff task at the weights, having run third in this event last year off a 127 rating. Following his gallant second to Many Clouds in the Crabbie’s Grand National, Saint Are was hiked to 148 by the assessor, so this would appear a tall order for Tom George’s nine-year-old. However, there appears plenty of dead wood and Saint Are’s proven form over the National fences makes him worthy of each-way support, especially if this turns into a slog on testing ground.
Goonyella, winner of the Midlands National and later runner-up in the Scottish equivalent, should go well. Although the Irish raider unseated his rider at the first fence when touted for this event 12 months ago, that was a rare jumping aberration.
Irish National winner Thunder And Roses must be respected, along with No Planning and Algernon Pazham. No Planning is much better off at the weights with Algernon Pazham on their Haydock running in April, but the latter has time on his side and is improving steadily for Nigel Twiston-Davies.
I’m quite sweet on another Twiston-Davies chaser, DOUBLE ROSS (3.20), in the Betfred Grand Sefton Chase over 2m 5f. He gave us a great run for our money when finishing fourth to Annacotty in the Paddy Power Gold Cup and he jumped for fun around the National fences last season when contesting the Topham Trophy (fifth).
Fago was prominent and travelling well when falling in the Topham. The Nicholls chaser ran really well on his return at Wetherby behind Wakanda and although a shade disappointing at Ascot next time, Fago could easily bounce back.
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