Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Doncaster, Kelso and Newbury. View selections below
The Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster is this afternoon’s highlight, offering punters plenty of clues towards Aintree with The Druids Nephew, Just a Par, The Last Samurai and Ikorodu Road all entered for the 2016 renewal of the Crabbies Grand National. Kim Bailey had both National hopefuls Kruzhlinin and The Last Samurai (3.45) entered for connections at the 5-day stage and opts to run the latter who gets the nod to win en-route to having a crack at Aintree thereafter.
The 8-y-o was unsuited by Kempton’s sharp track last time out, when still managing to get the job done under David Bass in a competitive 3m Handicap Chase over Christmas. Bass keeps the ride and, with the gelding likely to be suited by the return to a galloping track, he is a confident selection to maintain his excellent strike-rate over fences.
Selected 2016 Grand National prices from BetVictor
Many Clouds 10/1
The Last Samurai 25/1
Just a Par 33/1
Philip Hobbs’ Mountain King (2.00) has a very different profile and has been far from prolific over fences, winning just 1 of his career 9 starts over the larger obstacles, but should be suited by both the drop back in trip and Doncaster’s better ground and can land the opening 2m handicap chase under Richard Johnson. The selection was rated 135 over timber but always looked the type to do better over fences and has admittedly been disappointing thus far. Nevertheless, the form of his second behind Paul Nicholls’ ill-fated Mon Successeur two starts ago at Ascot has worked out well and he is now just a pound higher than bolting-up over the same trip at Perth last spring.
BetVictor are sponsoring on this afternoon’s Greatwood card at Newbury and, after teaming-up to land last year’s Novices’ Handicap Chase with O Maonlai, Tom George and Paddy Brennan combine again with Florida Calling (4.35). The selection has shown little form in a trio of novices’ hurdles but is a point-to-point winner in his native Ireland and is bred to relish the step up to the larger obstacles. He should be suited by the drop back in trip and should prove much better than his opening mark of 114.
Paul Nicholls has won 8 of the last 11 renewals of the feature Greatwood Gold Cup and saddles both Sametegal and Art Mauresque bidding to maintain his stranglehold on the contest. Both are sure to be competitive for the Champion Trainer but a chance is taken instead on Evan Williams’ Laser Hawk (3.25) under the returning Paul Moloney. The selection remains unexposed under rules, making just his 7th start this afternoon, but is a dual p-t-p winner and clearly goes well at the track. The handicapper has dropped him 6lb since finishing third in a competitive 2m handicap chase at the track in November and he should prove even better stepping up in trip to two and a half miles and can reward each-way support.
Nicky Henderson boasts a terrific record in the closing £50,000 bumper and must go close with Cultivator (5.10) under Nico De Boinville. The selection was third in the corresponding race last term but has improved since, winning a warm Ascot bumper on his seasonal debut in October, and should improve for the fitting of a first-time hood.