Several excellent performances over the two-days of Cheltenham’s Showcase meeting including Al Dancer’s impressive win in Friday’s Novice Chase. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ exciting grey is 14s from 25s at BetVictor for the Arkle back at Cheltenham in March.
Newcastle will stage the rearranged Vertem Futurity Stakes on Friday – the first Group 1 to be run on an all-weather surface in Britain and a real feather in the cap for the track and all at Gosforth Park. Entries will close for the race at Noon today Monday.
Leicester called a precautionary inspection for noon yesterday but with a dry day forecast for Sunday and Monday I would be surprised if the meeting failed to get the green light.
Marronier is likely to be all the rage for the Mile Handicap after his fluent win at Epsom last time, but the runner up – I’m Available – disappointed at Newbury on Friday and I hope to see Another Touch (1.55) bounce back to form for Richard Fahey.
The selection has winning form on soft ground, has dropped to a decent mark and a mile on soft ground might be the key.
Sevenna Star has only beaten a total of two horses in his three runs this term, but I remember him dotting up on heavy ground at Windsor last spring when trained by John Gosden and he has slipped to a decent mark.
Preference, however, is for Johnny Drama (3.05) who steps back up to a mile-and-a-half for the first time since he disappointed on his British debut at Royal Ascot. Mark Johnston’s Charles Kingsley is the guaranteed stayer and looks sure to make sure it is a true test of stamina, but I hope to see Andrew Balding’s four-year-old build on a good second at York last time.
No problems expected at Ayr where I hope to see Ettila De Sivola (2.10) make a winning chase debut for James Ewart in the Novices’ Handicap Chase. The selection won first time out over timber last season, has the scope to jump a fence and the stable had a winner at Kelso at the weekend. Nick Schofield takes over in the saddle with Brian Hughes riding Chateau Robin for Nicky Richards.
The Rose Dobbin horses ran well at Kelso on Saturday – winner and a runner up – and I hope to see an improved show from Attention Please (2.45) in the three-mile chase. The selection has little in the way of good recent form, but he certainly knows how to win, and his last success was gained from just a 1lb higher mark.
At Kempton this evening I’m looking forward to the racecourse debut of the American bred filly Almareekh (4.55) who cost $950,000 as a yearling, has a good draw in stall four and the Sir Michael Stoute yard won the corresponding race 12 months ago. Ralph Beckett’s Crispina is another well-bred, well-drawn newcomer who is worth a check in the market.
In the Mile Handicap Eden Gardens (7.00) gets the each way vote returning from a near 12-month lay-off having scored on his handicap debut over C&D last November. The booking of Jim Crowley would suggest a bold bid is expected – albeit from a 9lbs higher mark.
Quintada was well on top at Newmarket last time, is only 4lbs higher in the weights and has the plum draw from stall one, but I feel Stagehand (8.00) can overturn that Newmarket form when she was like a cat on a hot tin roof on the fast ground. She has a moderate draw to overcome this evening but is given another chance having run well on her sole previous start on an all-weather surface.
At Wexford the mare Kupatana has her first start in the listed chase for Henry de Bromhead, but I hope to see Discorama (3.10) make a winning reappearance for Paul Nolan who had a winner at Galway on Saturday. The selection has an excellent record fresh and finished runner up in a Punchestown Grade 1 when last seen back in the spring.