Sunday’s Naas Grade 1 winner Next Destination is unlikely to be seen again until the Cheltenham Festival reported trainer Willie Mullins and it looks increasingly likely that the 2m 4f Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle will be his Festival target. The gelding will be given entries in all three Novice Hurdles but he is 6s from 8s with BetVictor for the Ballymore although I don’t think supporters of either Gordon Elliot’s Samcro (2/1 favourite) or Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side (7/1 with BetVictor) will be too concerned by what they saw at the weekend.
Doncaster were due to inspect at 3pm Monday for today’s card at the South Yorkshire track and if racing gets the green light Black Op (12.25) can win the first division of the 2m 4f Maiden Hurdle. The selection made a highly-promising start at Newbury when fourth in a good contest at the minimum trip and this Point/Bumper winner will appreciate today’s extra half a mile.
Casablanca Mix (2.00) should be unbeaten over fences having come down at the last at Exeter last time with the race at her mercy. She should return to winning ways and no surprise to see Nico De Boinville in the plate this afternoon.
The ground is likely to be soft at Taunton where I hope to see Golden Sunrise (1.05) go one better stepped up to three miles than when running up at Chepstow last time over two-and-a-half. The one concern is the form of the Colin Tizzard yard, but they had a welcome winner at Plumpton on Sunday in the same Brocade Racing colours courtesy of the well-backed Bramble Brook.
As I See It was beaten by a 100/1 shot (Samuel Jackson) over today’s C&D last time but that form was franked when the winner scored at Bangor last time and the Harry Fry-trained six-year-old looks the main danger.
The feature race is the valuable 3m Handicap Chase and Relentless Dreamer is 7lbs higher than when scoring at Ludlow before Christmas. That success was a rare high spot for trainer Rebecca Curtis so far this season but the vote goes to the mare Timeforwest (2.10) who was still travelling when brought down at Cheltenham last time. This 3m trip looks idea and, although she would prefer better ground, she gets the narrow vote in a cracking contest.
King Of Realms (1.35) needs to settle better than he did at Ascot last time but he receives 6lbs from the promising Demon D’Anjou who might not be as effective on today’s soft ground as the Ian Williams-trained selection.
Dan Skelton’s Bandsman is likely to be a different proposition from his belated reappearance ten days ago when he was too keen to do himself justice. With that freshness out of his system, he is likely to leave that run behind but preference is for the juvenile Paddleyourowncanoe (2.45) despite the fact that he is 12lbs higher than when scoring over C&D last month.
The selection will carry only 10st 6lbs, is clearly progressive and he can take this step up in class in his stride. Fidux would be a big danger if he stays this near 2m 4f trip although that is not guaranteed on breeding. .
It is great to see the first Hunter Chase of the British season and preference for Unioniste (3.20) is marginal over Opening Batsman. The selection is two years younger than Opening Batsman and was a decent handicapper for Paul Nicholls a couple of years ago. The ground might be just on the soft side for Opening Batsman although this tight right-handed track is ideal for Harry Fry’s 12-year-old.