No surprise to see a maximum field of 24 will go to post for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury tomorrow on ground described as good to soft on Thursday with no rain forecast between now and post time. The Evan Williams’ trained Mack The Man heads the market at 13/2 with BetVictor with Not So Sleepy 7s and Never Adapt 9/1. The shortlist is particularly long with Mack The Man, Pic D’Orhy (25s at BetVictor) and Thebannerkingrebel (9/1 at BetVictor) all under consideration.
They race at Kempton Park over jumps this afternoon. The track has been in the news this week with the Jockey Club advising plans to sell the racecourse for 3,000 new homes – announced in January 2017 – have been shelved although plans remain for a scaled-down programme with up to 500 new homes.
A couple of Alan King’s string have run below par in recent days which tempers confidence regarding the prospects of On To Victory (1.50) who steps up from the minimum trip for the first time this afternoon. The selection is a useful stayer on the level and gives the impression he will appreciate today’s additional five furlongs. He receives 6lbs from the previous winners with Colin Tizzard’s Ofalltheginjoints considered the main danger.
There is little between On The Slopes and Not That Fuisse (2.25) on Uttoxeter running from earlier in the season and the former has shown a tendency to jump out to his right. His third here over two-and-a-half-miles here over Christmas was an excellent effort, but I hope Chris Gordon’s six-year-old helps set the race up for the Dan Skelton runner who will appreciate the drying ground and has some excellent novice chase form to his name.
In the 1st division of the Bumper the hope is that Duc De Bourbon (4.00) will have learnt plenty from his racecourse debut when he was a beaten favourite at Wincanton. Trainer Paul Nicholls is reported to hold him in high regard at Ditcheat although it should be noted that Nicky Henderson saddled the winner of that Wincanton race and saddles Diamond River this afternoon. Henderson should know where he stands this afternoon, but I expect Duc De Bourbon to have come on a bundle from his first start.
Le Bateau finished in front of Duc De Bourbon on debut but, in the 2nd division of the Bumper, he may have to play second fiddle to Flinteur Sacre (4.30) – brother of the great Sprinter Sacre – who travelled like a very smart prospect when runner up at Newbury on debut. That run was on soft ground and he looks sure to find today’s conditions more to his liking.
At Bangor-on-Dee I must admit I have given up on Benechenko after a poor effort at Sedgefield last time although I do see Fergal O’Brien has fitted his eight-year-old with first-time blinkers. High Counsel is chasing a four-timer and won with, seemingly, any amount in hand at Warwick last time.
The handicapper has had his say, however, and he must race from a 10lbs higher mark this afternoon – 12lbs if you consider jockey Alexander Thorne’s claim has dropped from seven to five. He is reluctantly overlooked in favour of Big Difference (2.10). Ben Pauling’s seven-year-old sprawled on landing four out at Ludlow last time when staying on over three miles and he gives the impression today’s additional five furlongs will see him in an even better light.
The form of Getabay’s (4.50) second at Limerick last time was given a boost when the winner –Lieutenant Colonel – went on to finish third in Leopardstown’s Grade 2 Bumper at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend. Yes, he was beaten 15L, but the winner – Appreciate It – is favourite for the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham next month. Daryl Jacob takes the ride for Gordon Elliot – his sole runner this afternoon – and they look to have Donald McCain’s Carlisle winner Mackenberg to beat.