Racing in Britain will return today after the green light was given late on Monday evening by the BHA after a five-day sabbatical following the recent outbreak of equine flu. Horses will only be allowed to race, however, if they have been vaccinated within the last six months and a number of trainers have expressed their frustration and angst with the new regulations.
Nicky Henderson was looking forward to running RSA Chase favourite Santini (3/1 with BetVictor) this weekend but he is one of a number of Seven Barrows inmates who are currently barred from running because of the new regs.
The weights were announced yesterday for the Randox Health Grand National and my two against the field at this very early stage are Mall Dini (10st 4lbs) who is 25/1 at BetVictor and Ms Parfois (10st 2lbs) who is 33/1 at BetVictor who also went Non Runner No Bet on all 28 races at next month’s Cheltenham Festival yesterday.
In the opener at Plumpton Acey Milan (2.10) is looking to make it third time lucky over hurdles having disappointed in two starts over two-and-a-half-miles so far tis term. The selection drops to the minimum trip for the first time since finishing fourth in the Cheltenham Bumper last March.
It is well documented that Anthony Honeyball’s yard has been under a cloud this term, but Duhallow Gesture was a welcome winner for the yard last week and Acey Milan does hold an entry in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Festival for which he is a 66/1 shot with BetVictor.
Only three to post for the Novices’ Handicap Chase. I was very impressed with the chase debut of Good Man Pat (2.40) who was not given too hard a time when third at Plumpton behind two very good yardsticks last month and this winning pointer looks a likely contender for one of the Festival handicaps especially the Close Brothers Chase. Remember there is a £50,000 bonus if you win a chase at Plumpton and then win a race over the larger obstacles at Cheltenham. Honeyball’s Midnight Tune ran a terrific race on her chase debut at Uttoxeter but did show a slight tendency to jump out to the right.
Shintori (3.40) travelled through the race like a well handicapped horse at Chepstow last time but seemed to find trip a bit too far. This drop back to 2m 1f on soft ground should be ideal.
At Fairyhouse Missy Tatty (2.35) has been off the track for 777-days but had won her last five starts for Gordon Elliot since finishing fourth in the 2016 Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. The mare has the scope to jump a fence but won’t have things all her won way as Moyhenna sets a fair standard having finished a 7l second to Pravalaguna at Limerick over Christmas. The winner followed up by 14L in a listed Mares’ Chase at Naas last weekend and Moyhenna will be a good barometer of the form.
Ruby Walsh has an excellent record on Call It Magic for his brother-in-law Ross O’Sullivan and he can land the Chase for horses rated 0-135. The gelding was last seen finishing fourth in the Becher Chase back in December and would have been the selection on soft or heavy ground.
Preference, however, is for Nick Lost (3.05) who will appreciate returning to a right-hand track having consistently jumped right in a Leopardstown Grade 1 over Christmas. The selection is a duel chase winner on good ground last summer and the forecast good ground just gives him the edge over Call It Magic.
I was disappointed with the finishing effort of Black Tears when easily brushed aside at Down Royal last time and preference in the Mares’ Maiden Hurdle goes to Bint Chattleya (2.05) who finished fourth at Doncaster in a listed contest last time.