Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Cheltenham and Doncaster on Saturday. View selections below.
CHAMPAGNE WEST (2.25) boasts an excellent record around Cheltenham and looks guaranteed to figure in the Freebets.com Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old hasn’t been over-raced under the tutelage of master trainer Philip Hobbs and he gave in-form stablemate Village Vic a real race in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December. Champagne West also chased home classy Ptit Zig here on New Year’s day and boasts form figures of 41122 from five trips to Prestbury Park.
Tenor Nivernais was only one length adrift of my selection at the Open meeting and should also figure along with Cheltenham regulars Annacotty and Irish Cavalier.
Besides Champagne West, Richard Johnson has only one other mount, CHELTENIAN (4.10), again for his retained Hobbs yard. Cheltenian has a stiff task under the steadier of 11st 12lb on deep ground, but the Scottish Champion Hurdle winner ran a cracker here in March, weakening approaching the last flight when eighth to Wicklow Brave in the County Hurdle. He may prove up to the task against some lesser, but unexposed, rivals.
With Barters Hill re-routed to Doncaster by Ben Pauling in his quest for better ground, the coast is clear for YANWORTH (3.00) to slap down his Festival claims by landing the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Running in the JP McManus colours, Yanworth was never off the bridle when whipping Charbel at Ascot in December and his earlier odds-on defeat of Le Prezien is also solid form. Alan King’s gelding steps up in trip for the first time but will be hard to beat.
King habitually targets the JCB Triumph Hurdle with his rookies and WHO DARES WINS (12.40) was mightily impressive when running right away from gambled-on Robertstown at Doncaster. The track was riding heavy that day but this ex-Richard Hannon handicapper handled conditions with aplomb.
Feature event at Doncaster is the Sky Bet Chase, with 15 runners declared. Ante-post punters have been quite keen on LE MERCUREY (3.15) and he met two cracking novices in Seeyouatmidnight and Blaklion at Cheltenham. The assessor has kept Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old on the same mark for his handicap bow and Le Mercurey could simply outclass his more exposed rivals. Novices have a good record in the race and the extra yardage may also play to his strengths.
Talented but frustrating Buywise keeps promising to land a decent handicap but is hindered by jumping flaws. Doncaster’s fences are a bit softer than most, which will aid his cause. If In Doubt demolished half the obstacles on his way to victory last year, so that’s possibly a good omen for Buywise’s loyal followers.
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