Despite Altior’s defection earlier in the week Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson will still saddle the favourite for the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton on Saturday with the yard’s Top Notch 8/11 at BetVictor to maintain his unbeaten record this season.
In the Lanzarote Hurdle the Paul Nicholls’ trained Pic D’Orhy, who fell at Auteuil on his reappearance back in November, has been put in as the 4/1 market leader with BetVictor despite the steadier of 11st 10lbs. Olly Murphy – who has his string in such good form – is likely to saddle Notre Pari (11/2 with BetVictor) and I was impressed with the latter’s Aintree win stepping up to two-and-a-half-miles last time.
Leicester will inspect at 8am this morning with heavy rain forecast despite reporting on Wednesday that they have not seen any rain for 10 days although “the ground is still wet underneath”. If racing gets the green light, then I expect recent C&D winner Wenceslaus (1.15) to run a big race in the opener having been raised just 3lbs for that success.
I’m not convinced a right-handed track is ideal for the selection – he jumped left in the home straight last time – but he receives a stone from Saint De Vassy who nearly landed a gamble for us at Hereford last time. He rates a big danger although he will have to lump 12st 3lbs around on what looks sure to be testing ground.
The Bay Birch (2.15) has not been at her very best in recent starts but she is 21lbs better off with Northern Beau for the 14L she was behind that rival at Cheltenham last month and I hope she can reverse the form on the revised terms in the feature race the Mares’ listed chase.
At Catterick Geordielandgangsta (1.35) steps up in trip to 3m + for his chase debut having stayed on nicely into third on his handicap debut over timber on his seasonal reappearance last month. The selection finished runner up in the second of his two points in Ireland and his pedigree suggests he will improve for the step up in distance.
Philip Hobbs has his string in excellent form and Pileon (2.05) ran a race full of promise on his first start over timber at Cheltenham and this Exeter Bumper winner is taken to confirm that promise stepping up in trip this afternoon.
The feature race is the North Yorkshire Grand National and last year’s runner up Little Bruce is 10lbs higher in the weights as he tries to go one better for Phil Kirby. As long as the ground is no worse than good to soft – given as good at noon on Wednesday – the each way vote goes to Chase The Wind (2.40) at the foot of the weights.
The selection has just turned 11 but has been in excellent form of late and gets a narrow vote in receipt of 7lbs from the likely market leader. Trained by Joanna Foster in west Yorkshire the selection has been raised 2lbs for finishing second at Doncaster last time and the winner – Horatio Hornblower – was in the process of running a big race when coming down in the valuable Veterans’ Chase at Sandown at the weekend.
Captain Woodie (3.45) was no match for a talented mare of Dan Skelton’s last time but he could be well treated for his handicap debut if the ground does not deteriorate. The selection won a couple of Bumpers on good/good to firm ground and today’s step up in distance to an extended 2m 3f will also suit. Nicky Henderson makes a rare visit to Catterick, in search of some decent ground, with his 8-y-old who has only had seven career starts.
There is a decent card at Newcastle and Bendy Spirit – who did us a favour at Lingfield last time – may not be quite as effective on tapeta over this stiff 7f as he was at Lingfield last time. Jessica Harrington’s Bella Brazil – improved for the switch to an all-weather surface at Kempton last time on her first start for the yard and a 5lbs rise may not prevent her following up with Hollie Doyle keeping the ride. The filly runs in the famous colours of Peter Savill a former Chairman of the British Horseracing Board (BHB).
At Meydan the 6-year-old entire Benbatl (4.15) is taken to win the Singspiel Stakes for the second time in three years despite having to give 4lbs to last year’s winner Dream Castle. Christophe Soumillon takes the ride with regular pilot Oisin Murphy currently in Japan.