Owner Jean Bishop confirmed on Monday that 12-year-old Cue Card would run in the Gold Cup next month at Cheltenham rather than the Ryanair Chase after his running on second in the Ascot Chase at the weekend.
It is hard to make case for Colin Tizzard’s stable star winning the Blue Riband event at this stage of his career having his third start in the race, but he looked almost as good as ever at Ascot and he will have his supporters at the Festival – he is currently 25/1 at BetVictor.
The Racing Post Chase at Kempton is one of the weekend highlights and lurking near the foot of the weights is Theatre Territory who is 16/1 at BetVictor, but do note she holds an entry at Warwick on Friday. She certainly captures the eye although she has been raised 4lbs for finishing second at Cheltenham last time and is yet to win over fences.
Heavy ground at Wetherby for today’s card and Flemerina is likely to be a short price to go one better than when runner up at Market Rasen from a 1lb lower mark a fortnight ago when she hinted that a step up in trip was needed. The mare won over just shy of three miles over timber from a 2lbs lower mark last March and this looks a good opportunity to break her duck over fences.
That said I felt Honeychile Ryder (2.30) travelled well before her stamina gave out in a three-mile hurdle here over Christmas. This step back in trip looks ideal and she was going every bit as well as Flemerina before her stamina or lack of race-fitness took its toll coming back from a long lay-off. She has the scope to jump a fence and gets a narrow vote although the Dianne Sayer yard have been quiet for some time.
I am convinced there is more to come from Pistol Park (3.35) and hope that the application of a first time tongue-tie and a wind operation might help Brian Ellison’s seven-year-old who has been struggling to get home in recent starts. The handicapper has dropped him just 4lbs for three modest efforts so far this term although he has won on heavy ground this time last year off a mark just 1lb higher.
Milly Baloo (4.40) threw her race away in a Mares only race at Catterick from a 3lbs lower mark last time when she ran out at the last with her race in safekeeping. This is tougher but Brian Hughes takes over in the plate this afternoon and many of her rivals are also on something of a retrieval mission. Just Georgie and Bandon Roc are two who would be interesting if the market spoke in their favour.
I’m still coming to terms with how Sangha River was beaten in the Lingfield opener on Monday, but the Olly Murphy yard remain in good form having landed a quick double. Richard Johnson – who missed the ride on Sangha River as he was at a funeral – takes the ride on It’s O Kay (5.10) and she can get off the mark having shaped with considerable promise on debut at Doncaster last month.
Oscar Rose (2.40) has run well in defeat in a number of runs so far this season and she deserves to get her head in front in Taunton’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.
The Kings Writ (3.10) jumped well but was just outstayed at Hereford last month but can race from the same mark and this slight drop back in trip should suit. James Best takes over in the saddle this afternoon and I Hope the seven-year-old can go one better for Kayley Woolacott.
The 2m Handicap Hurdle is a cracker and my two against the field are Black Mischief in his first-time cheek-pieces and Our Merlin (3.45) with marginal preference for the latter who ran a terrific race from the front at Cheltenham and might find this easier track a plus and a 1lb rise is fair.