Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Newbury and Doncaster on Saturday. View selections below.
VIBRATO VALTAT (3.15) has been given some welcome relief from the assessor and looks ready to produce a big run in the feature William Hill Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Newbury.
Despite carrying top weight, Paul Nicholls’ eight-year-old has dropped to his lowest mark in some time. With blinkers fitted for the first time and Sam Sheppard taking off 5lb, Vibrato Valtat can stamp his authority over some in-form rivals.
On his last two outings, sporting cheekpieces, the gelding has chased home Templehills at Warwick and Vaniteux at Kempton. Vibrato Valtat hasn’t won since seeing off First Intention at Exeter in November, 2015. He enjoyed a fine campaign that year, beating Top Gamble at Warwick weeks before running fourth to Un De Sceaux at Cheltenham.
The ante-post market has opted for Old Grangewood as favourite, with Dan Skelton’s gelding having won three of his last four outing (brought down at Aintree on the other occasion). He accounted for Dresden at Wetherby but is 8lb worse off for just over two lengths, which leaves little margin for error. Dresden has since finished a neck behind No Butts in an exciting contest at Warwick.
Nicholls also saddles More Buck’s with a chance. The seven-year-old has scored three times this season, at Fontwell (twice) and Sandown, and his fourth to Double Shuffle at Kempton’s Christmas meeting was a very solid effort.
Hollywooden beat Aatracad at Wetherby but a slight rise caught him out when only third to Garde La Victoire and Bold Henry at Sandown. That run still puts him in the picture.
With the Venetia Williams yard in such rampant form, there will be plenty of interest in Vic De Touzaine. The eight-year-old returned from a 328-day absence to hunt up Dusky Lark at Wincanton last month and any rain would be in his favour.
Tornado In Milan belied his 11 years when romping home by 15 lengths over hurdles at Wincanton and remains well enough treated over the larger obstacles.
The Betway Veteran’s Chase over the Hennessy trip of 3m 2f is always a popular contest and the more rain the better for HARRY TOPPER (2.05).
Kim Bailey’s gelding landed this event two years ago and has been lightly raced in recent times. Harry Topper hinted at a rejuvenation last time at Exeter when fourth to Perfect Candidate. He handed out a 25-length thrashing to Al Ferof at Newbury in his pomp a few seasons ago, so his proven course form is a bonus.
As an each-way alternative, No Duffer should give his backers a good run at odds of around 10-1.
Tom George’s gelding was pulled up behind Our Kaempfer at Kempton in January when things didn’t go his way (hampered) and is better judged on his earlier victory over Long Lunch and Ziga Boy at Doncaster. No Duffer struck form last spring, scoring at Perth and Haydock, although both triumphs came on good ground.
Loose Chips has been in tremendous form around his beloved Sandown, splitting Otago Trail and Irish saint last month. Fourth horse Rock The Kasbah scored last week to give the form a very solid look, but Charlie Longsdon’s gelding may not be quite so effective away from the metropolitan track.
William Hill sponsor the two-mile handicap hurdle and BLOODY MARY (2.40) is a most interesting favourite.
The ex-French mare won on her UK debut last February at Taunton (heavy) for Nicky Henderson and JP McManus, before going on to finish third to Limini in the mares’ novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham the following month. Bloody Mary hasn’t been seen since and the market will give us a good clue to expectations.
London Prize fell at Musselburgh when fancied for the Scottish County Hurdle and has since finished second on the Newcastle all-weather. Ian Williams’ six-year-old is a progressive sort but most of his form has come on a sounder surface.
The 2m 4f seniors’ handicap hurdle has a very open look to it but last year’s runner-up SPICE FAIR (1.30) should be in the shake-up at a loud ew price.
He was ridden more prominently than usual when fourth to Verni at Taunton and a return to hold-up tactics could pay dividends. From that Taunton race, Willow’s Saviour (second) and Oscartea (fifth) are closely matched with my selection.
Hello George returned from a 455-day absence to finish fifth to Space Oddity at Exeter on New Year’s Day and should figure.
There has been plenty of rain at Doncaster but that won’t inconvenience THE LAST SAMURI (3.35) in the BetBright Grimthorpe Handicap Chase.
Kim Bailey’s chaser had 10 lengths to spare over The Druid’s Nephew 12 months ago and he was given a nice break following his excellent third to Vieux Lion Rouge and Highland Lodge in the Becher Chase at Aintree in early December.
The Last Samuri is now 12lb higher than last year’s romp and will need to be at his best to repel principal threat Definitly Red. Brian Ellison’s eight-year-old beat Wakanda at Wetherby on Boxing Day before unseating in Bristol De Mai’s Haydock demolition job.
With the Venetia Williams yard going so strongly, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see Yala Enki going well.
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