The Irish have won three of the last four renewals of the Arkle Novice Chase at the Cheltenham Festival with the brilliant Altior the sole British winner in the period. Britain look to have a strong hand for March, however, with yesterday’s impressive Plumpton winner Kalashnikov remaining 5/1 joint favourite at BetVictor with Lalor for the Grade 1 contest.
Saturday sees the Becher Chase at Aintree with last year’s winner Blaklion 7/1 at BetVictor to follow up. He only got as far as the first when brought down in the National back in the spring and will be 5lbs higher in the weights as he bids for back-to-back wins in the National Trial.
Olly Murphy saddles a couple in the 2m 5f Novice Chase at Fakenham with Aidan Coleman taking the ride on Wood Pigeon who has had his wind operated on since disappointing back in the spring.
I prefer the chances, however, of The Geegeez Geegee (1.10) who goes well fresh, will enjoy the forecast good ground and the yard’s conditional jockey Fergus Gregory takes off a valuable 5lbs. The selection is 5lbs higher than when scoring at Stratford last October, but first time out might be the time to catch him.
Bang Bang Rosie (1.40) has her first start for Peter Bowen having won a maiden hurdle at Limerick back in the spring for Willie Mullins. The mare is penalised 6lbs for that success this afternoon, but she is taken to defy her penalty although Murphy’s Skandiburg is entitled to improve on his Wetherby third on his hurdle debut (2m) when he shaped as though in need of a step up in trip.
Wisecracker (2.40) would have gone close but for constantly jumping out to the left at Herford last time and today’s track really ought to be more suitable. Last week’s Sedgefield winner Show’s Over looks a big danger.
At Southwell Hoo Bally Diva (12.30) meets nothing of the calibre of her recent Exeter conqueror Lil Rockerfeller and connections look to have found an ideal opportunity for their mare despite Dawnieriver chasing a hat-trick. Sean Houlihan takes off a valuable 5lbs from the back of the selection who was a dual winner over timber earlier in the year.
Crosspark (2.00) has been raised 12lbs over fences for his fluent chase success at Uttoxeter last time and he can race from a 5lbs lower mark this afternoon back over timber. Harry Skelton gave the inside up to nobody at the Staffordshire track and saved every inch of ground, but he could be called the winner a long way out and he is taken to follow up.
Hayley Turner keeps the ride on the lightly-raced 4-y-old colt Glassy Waters (1.50) who steps up to 10f for the first time at Lingfield having scored at Kempton over a mile from a poor draw last time. He is bred to be a decent sort on an all-weather surface and remains open to further improvement having won two of his previous five starts.