Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Ayr, Nottingham and Bangor. View selections below
Newbury have been forced to abandon their two-day flat turf meeting although, at the time of writing, they are trying to reschedule today’s card on an all-weather surface.
It might be prudent to concentrate on cards we know are going ahead (Stratford also inspect 7.30) and only one place to start and that is at Ayr for their Scottish National card.
The ground is currently soft and the opening Novices’ Handicap Chase is an absolute cracker with Kilbree Chief’s February course win boosted by the win of runner up Nakadam earlier in the week.
I marginally prefer stablemate One For Arthur (1.50) who has been bogged down on heavy ground of late but should appreciate today’s marginally better surface as long as there is no more significant rain. The selection was just getting into the race when blundering away his chance four out over C&D last month and he has been dropped 3lbs for that effort.
The ground should not be a problem for JLT runner up Bristol De Mai (2.25) who is taken to give 3lbs to Henryville; trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies the 5-y-old bypassed Aintree in favour of Ayr and he ran an excellent race at Cheltenham despite the fact that the ground was considered a shade too quick; that will not be the case today.
The Scottish Champion Hurdle is a hot race with last weekend’s Aintree winner Ivan Grozny sure to be popular carrying just a 5lbs penalty for a facile 8l success; trainer Willie Mullins is doubly represented with last month’s fluent Fairyhouse winner Clondaw Warrior also in the field but each way vote goes to Shrewd (3.00) who is in the form of his life, goes well for Shame Shortall and 8/1 at BetVictor looks a fair price.
Thirty will go to post for the National and it looks a quality renewal with Kim Muir winner Cause Of Causes (10/1) and Measureofmydreams (9/1) heading the market at BetVictor who are paying 5 places on the race. This is a poor race for market leaders in recent years, however, and my two against the field are Milansbar and Milborough (4.10) with marginal preference for the latter who is a 33/1 at BetVictor.
The selection only got as far as the eighth in the corresponding race last year but ran an eye-catching trial when runner up at Carlisle in a decent Veterans’ Chase last time; this has long been the plan for his local yard and it must be remembered that the horse won 4m the Eider Chase last February under similar underfoot conditions.
I’m not convinced it was Harry Skelton’s finest hour when Two Taffs finished fourth at Sandown last time but this further step up in trip is a concern and he seems to be invariably ridden with exaggerated waiting tactics. Eshtiaal would have been the selection on good or better ground but the vote goes the top-weight Arbre De Vie (4.45) beaten 5l in the Coral Cup last time on ground, arguably, softer than ideal.
The booking of Adam Kirby for Van Gerwen (7.55) certainly catches the eye at Nottingham and I thought he showed signs of ability in three starts as a 2-year-old; trainer Les Eyre can certainly lay one out and if there was market support about the gelding that might be a good guide as to whether he can hit the bullseye!
Donald McCain had a nice high-profile, and much needed, win at Aintree last weekend and he could have a good day at his local track at Bangor-on-Dee where Oscar Whisky (3.55) can follow up last month’s C&D win from a 5lbs lower mark.