Soft ground lovers this weekend

There are three National Hunt meetings on Saturday with Newbury, Doncaster and Kelso each putting on some competitive racing thanks largely to the decent prize money on offer.

There is a lot of rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday so we want to be keeping the soft ground lovers on our side.

The highlight of the Newbury card in the Greatwood Gold Cup where the highly progressive Oldgrangewood heads the market.

The Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old might be unbeaten in four races over fences had he not been brought down at the fourth last at Aintree in December, and has since won twice at Wetherby.

On the last occasion he was seriously impressive, and despite a 9lb rise for that I expect him to have too much toe for Vic De Touzaine, who looks to be the main danger.

The veterans’ chase earlier on the card could see one-time Gold Cup hopefully Harry Topper make a belated return to the winners’ enclosure.

Kim Bailey’s Mudlark is very well handicapped on his old form and showed that plenty of ability remains when finishing second at Exeter three weeks ago.

The softer the ground the better for Harry Topper and if the rain hits the Berkshire track confidence would only increase as stamina is his forte.

There is plenty of rain expected at the South Yorkshire venue of Doncaster which could turn the Betbright Grimthorpe Chase into a real war of attrition.

That should suit Looking Well, who produced an eye-catching performance to finish second in the Skybet Chase in January, running on strongly from the back on his first start since May.

The extra two furlongs here look sure to suit Nicky Richards’ eight-year-old and with the excellent Ryan Day claiming 5lb he can make the most of his feather weight.

The Last Samuri warms up for another tilt at the Grand National, in which he was second last year, but is 12lb higher than when landing this prize 12 months ago and that should be enough to prevent a repeat.

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Paul Nicholls is spreading his runners far and wide in pursuit of another trainer’s title and stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies has opted to go to Kelso where he rides a couple for the boss.

Capitaine will quickly look to atone for defeat at Kempton last week in the Grade 2 Premier Hurdle but he has to give weight all round and he comes up against Chalonnial, who finished behind him in the Tolworth at Sandown a couple of months ago.

Harry Fry’s horse gets a 3lb pull for just under four lengths and that should sway matters, while it will be interesting to see how the highly promising Mount Mews fares for Northern trainer Malcolm Jefferson.

The dual bumper and novice hurdle winner could be very useful in time, although the forecast heavy ground is a huge concern for the six-year-old.

Nicholls saddles Le Mercurey in the Premier Chase at 4.00 but the Denman Chase runner-up will have to go some to beat Tenor Nivernais if the latter named is in the same form as when thrashing his Ascot rivals two weeks ago.

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