Doncaster were forced to cancel today’s last meeting of the flat turf season on account of waterlogging but no such worries at Aintree and Wincanton who both stage top-class jumps cards.
The ground was described as soft – good to soft in places – at 11am on Friday ahead of today’s Aintree card with light rain forecast for Saturday. The opening Novices’ Handicap Chase is a cracker and I believe both Present View and Johnbb (12.25) are on attractive marks this term and preference for the latter is marginal.
Present View was a facile winner at Chepstow over hurdles on his penultimate start while Johnbb beat Glinger Flame a neck at Ayr. The latter is now rated 133 and with that in mind Tom Lacey’s five-year-old does not look over-faced off a mark of 125. He gets the each way vote at 7/1 with BetVictor.
Baby King won the corresponding 2m Handicap Chase a couple of years ago from a 1lb higher mark and represents the yard of Tom George who has his string in such good form. He must go close but the nod goes to The Last Day (1.30) who has only had four starts over fences and is open to significant improvement.
Riders Onthe Storm was held in high regard when trained by Tom Taaffe in Ireland and he is a fascinating runner on his British debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies. Oldgrangewood was brought down when going like the winner in this corresponding race two years ago and he has had his wind operated on during the summer. He must go close but Cepage (2.05) finished runner up to Frodon in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham when last seen back in December, clearly goes well fresh and gets the each way vote – 11/2 with BetVictor – despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs.
Rosy World (2.40) looked ready for a step up in trip when third at Plumpton on her reappearance and that form has already been franked by the subsequent win of the runner up – Dan McGrue. The selection – 6/1 at BetVictor – has just 10st 4lbs to carry and must go close although it should be noted that the yard of Suzy Smith have yet to saddle a winner this term.
At Wincanton Fiddlerontheroof (12.40) is taken to go one better than when second at Chepstow in the Grade 2 Silver Trophy last month. That run was over an additional half-mile in South Wales but he travelled like a class act and the drop back to the minimum trip is not considered a negative.
I thought Acaro (1.15) shaped with considerable promise on his chase debut when his stamina appeared to give way over an extended 2m 5f. This slightly shorter trip should suit and he gets the each way vote for Robert Walford whose yard could do with a fillip having lost a promising horse at Chepstow earlier in the week.
I am looking forward to seeing Fusil Raffles (3.00) make his reappearance in the Elite Hurdle. The selection made an impressive British debut at Kempton in February but missed Cheltenham and Aintree before winning the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree. The selection is 4/6 for today’s Grade 2 contest and 14s at BetVictor for the Champion Hurdle in March.
There is rain forecast for Somerset and that tempers confidence in Just A Sting (3.35) in the Badger Beers Trophy – the big betting race of the day. Harry Fry’s 7-year-old is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time and goes well fresh – the each way selection is 9/1 at BetVictor who are betting each way four places on the race.
Santini (2.25) must give weight to his three rivals in the Intermediate Chase at Sandown tomorrow including Talkischeap who finished last season with a win in the Bet365 Gold Cup. Nicky Henderson won this corresponding race two years ago with Might Bite and this looks an ideal starting point for his second season novice who is 8/1 for the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
There is a wonderful card at Navan on Sunday with any number of stars on show including Apple’s Jane and A Plus Tard. The Maiden Hurdle is a cracker and preference for Andy Dufresne (1.35) over Cobbler’s Way and Eden Flight is marginal in what promises to be a most informative contest.