The ITV cameras are at Warwick and Kempton this afternoon and we begin our preview at the latter venue where the 2m 5f Lanzarote Hurdle is the big betting race. I suggested earlier in the week that I was sweet on the chances of Olly Murphy’s Notre Pari (2.40) and I see no reason to desert him at the 11th hour.
The selection is 3/1 with BetVictor – who are paying four places on this 14-runner handicap – and I was very impressed with his Aintree success when stepped up to two-and-a-half-miles for the first time. An 8lbs rise looks workable as I thought he was well on top at the end. This is a stronger race, but he looks up to the step up in class.
Sammy Bill is likely to be all the rage for the 2m 4f handicap Chase having won both start this season in the manner of a very progressive hors,e including when coming from last to first over C&D back in November. He is 25lbs higher in the weights than for the first of those successes, however, and both wins have been gained on decent ground. He might be worth taking on with the ground described as soft at noon on Friday.
Erik Le Rouge has not been getting on particularly well with Chester Williams in recent starts and Lizzie Kelly takes over in the saddle this afternoon. I am convinced he is well treated at present although he did jump out to his left slightly at Ascot last time.
Mercian Prince (1.30) has won this corresponding race for the last two years and is only 2lbs higher than last season as he bids for the hat-trick. Last season’s success was gained in a moderate four-runner affair, and this looks a stronger renewal, but he is visored for the first time this afternoon. He has won on soft ground in the past although he would appreciate slightly better ground.
On The Blind Side’s record going right-handed reads 11242 and he must have a leading chance in the 3m handicap Chase for Nicky Henderson although he is not yet the most fluent of jumpers. The form of Fingerontheswitch’s (3.15) Huntingdon second to Copperhead was given a boost when the winner followed up at Newbury from a 9lbs higher mark and a 1lb rise for the each way selection is fair. Millie Wonnacott takes off a valuable 7lbs and the selection – 7/1 with BetVictor – can race from just 9st 8lbs.
At Warwick I hope to see a big run from Rough Night (1.15) who made most when scoring over C&D last time from a 7lbs lower mark. This is a step up in grade, but he jumped well in the main on that occasion and is entitled to come on for the run given it was only his second start over the larger obstacles.
The Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle is a cracker and preference for Irish raider Décor Irlandais (2.25) is marginal. The selection is 7/2 at BetVictor and I was very taken with his win at Catterick last time when he came from last to first to give Mercian Prince 9lbs – including jockey’s allowance – and a beating. This is obviously a much sterner test with Harry Senior improving for the step up in distance last time for the Tizzard’s and Mossy Fen and Shan Blue much respected.
My two against the field in the Grand National Trial, the Classic Chase are The Conditional and Bobo Mac (3.00) with the latter getting the each way vote at 9/1 with BetVictor who are betting 4 places on the 14-runner contest. The selection may have run into one at Ludlow last time but had looked a promising stayer when scoring at the Shropshire track previously.
The Conditional – 4s with BetVictor – has been raised 5lbs for finishing second in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury at the end of November and he has been given an entry in the Gold Cup by trainer David Bridgewater earlier in the week. He has only just turned eight and could still be open to significant improvement.
In the Pertemps qualifier I hope to see a big run from One For The Team (3.35) from near the foot of the weights. The selection looked a thorough stayer when runner up at Newbury on his handicap debut and today’s additional furlong holds no terrors. The each way selection is 5/1 at BetVictor who are again paying 4 places and he may have most to fear from Tedham – also 5s with BetVictor -despite the fact that the latter often flatters to deceive. He remains highly regarded by connections.
I’m not convinced Coconut Splash (12.30) was beaten when he came down at the last at Newbury in what is always a hot maiden hurdle. The 5-year-old is a winning pointer and will get further in time, but I hope to see him make it third time lucky over hurdles having finished second at Aintree on his reappearance.
Sandy Thompson has his string in decent form, and I thought Aloomomo (12.50) shaped with considerable promise on his first start for the yard and his first outing for over 600 days. He may also need Sunday’s run at Kelso, but he is certainly one to keep on the rights side of going forward especially when the market speaks in his favour.
Jabbaar will be a tough nut to crack having won impressively at Sedgefield on his hurdles debut, but I was taken with the manner of Cheddleton’s (1.25) win at Bangor-on-Dee last time and feel that he could be very smart.