The first race of 2018 at Cheltenham yesterday went to Neil Mulholland’s Tikkanbar who landed the listed Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle but of that gelding is to follow up at the Festival in March it is surely going to be in the 3m Albert Bartlett for which he was introduced into the betting at 25/1 with BetVictor.
Today’s jumps card at Ffos Las was abandoned due to waterlogging yesterday and Ayr must pass a precautionary 8am inspection with the ground described, at the time of writing, as heavy.
Ayr appear confident they will be able to race and in the 3m Handicap Chase I expect a much better run from Acdc who is fitted with a tongue-tie for the first time since finishing tailed off at Newcastle last time. The gelding had previously won well over today’s C&D from a 3lbs lower mark and would have been the selection had it not been for the fact that the Chris Grant yard continue to struggle.
Finaghy Ayr (2.10) stays further than today’s 3m trip and will be staying on when others have cried enough. Trainer Ian Duncan saddles two in the race with Lochnell also holding every chance but Grand National winning jockey Derek Fox got a nice tune out of the selection at Carlisle last time and, if he is within a couple of lengths coming to the last, he can finish fast and late and take the prize.
The unbeaten Niceandeasy (1.00) has won a Bumper and both hurdles and steps up to three miles for the first time for Keith Dalgleish this afternoon. The five-year-old will need to improve again for the step up in distance if he is to maintain his 100% record but he doesn’t look overburdened from an opening mark of 117 although he must carry the steadier of 12st.
Thomas Willmott takes off a valuable 10lbs from the back of Rivabodia and this C&D winner must go close to making it two from her last three for Lucinda Russell.
Roxyfet carries a 7lbs penalty for last week’s fluent Sedgefield success but the suggestion is he is a better horse at the County Durham track and the vote goes to Las Tunas (3.10) who is just 4lbs higher than when scoring over C&D back in February. The selection is entitled to come on for his reappearance when down the field at Catterick last month and today’s track obviously suits.
Nicky Richards saddled the winner of the Bumper back in 2015 and his newcomer Idee De Garde (3.45) can win on debut. The French import cost £52,000 as a 3-year-old and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour.
There is a valuable all-weather card at Newcastle and in the opener Crowned Eagle (3.35) can land the 12f handicap having his second start form Marco Botti. The selection is fitted with a hood for the first-time this afternoon having finished a close third at Wolverhampton last month. The unbeaten Paddyplex and Cesarewitch fourth Dubawi Fifty are others to consider in a cracking opener.
Heaven’s Guest (4.40) is on a long losing run but ran a very promising race on his all-weather debut when runner up over today’s C&D and this former Bunbury Cup winner can go one better with that experience behind him.
In the 7f Maiden First Contract (5.40) makes his racecourse debut for Goldolphin having cost 300,000 euros as a foal. The selection has already been gelded but makes plenty of appeal on breeding and he can score in what promises to be an informative contest. Assimile and Completion are other newcomers to consider and the betting should provide valuable clues.