Newbury plays host to a really competitive day’s racing on Saturday that brings down the curtain on their National Hunt season.
The ground at the track was good to soft and drying on Friday but that’s doesn’t necessarily narrow the fields down on what looks a difficult day’s punting.
However, there should be some value about and we can get things off to a good start in the opening handicap chase via the Philip Hobbs-trained Vieux Lille.
A three-time winner last season over timber, the seven-year-old has taken time to learn his trade over fences but equalled his hurdles form two runs back before disappointing last time.
However, this better ground may suit, cheekpieces have been introduced to help his jumping and with Richard Johnson taking over in the saddle, he looks poised to go close.
There are four last time out winners in the field but they will help to make the market, with Coolking and Dawson City higher in the weights now and not certain to appreciate the drying conditions.
The third race on the card (3.00) is one of the highlights of the mares’ calendar and it has attracted 17 of the season’s best equine females.
This time of year can see the fairer sex really come to themselves and I’m very interested in the lightly-raced Grand Turina, who was a highly rated bumper horse two years ago.
The six-year-old has enjoyed a light campaign but her victory at Warwick 13 days ago marked her down as a well-handicapped horse going into open company and she looks the ideal sort for this race faced with more of a stamina test.
The next is the turn of the juveniles, who tackle in excess of 2m for the first time this season, and stamina will again be a vital asset.
Don Bersy has the strongest form in the line-up and has done very little wrong all season. He looks a straight-forward horse and is a worthy favourite, so is the most likely winner provided the ground doesn’t turn against him.
Conditions are very different up at Kelso where the terrestrial TV cameras cover the first three races on the card. The going is heavy after midweek rain but two drying days could make it tacky and it could ride very testing indeed.
Meadowcroft Boy has twice finished behind Teo Vivo this season but is falling in the weights and with Brian Harding an interesting jockey booking he could be worth a look at a price in the opener.
Big River went close in a good race at Haydock last time, shaping as though a stiffer test would suit, and having won on heavy earlier in the campaign he looks a solid bet in the second.
The softer the ground the better for Baywing in the feature race of the day at 3.15, and he ought to go well despite being raised 15lb for winning the Towton Novices chase at Wetherby last time.
Seldom Inn looks a short price after winning a race that fell apart last time out, so the dour stayer Alto Des Mottes could be the one to give him most to do.
There is some seriously good racing at Meydan, featuring the Dubai World Cup, although it’ll be a watching brief for me.