The most impressive winner on a wonderful day’s racing on Saturday was, arguably, Cyrname who made all to easily land what looked a most competitive renewal of the Ascot Chase. Paul Nicholls’ gelding does not hold an entry in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month but can be supplemented for the race. He is 4/1 with BetVictor – Non Runner No Bet – for the Grade 1 contest and it will be interesting to see if connections stump up the cash or wait for Punchestown given his best form is, undeniably, right-handed.
Monalee was more workmanlike when also making all in the Red Mills Chase and is 9/2 from 13/2 with BetVictor (NRNB) for the same 2m 5f race at the Festival.
The ground is reported to be soft at Carlisle for this afternoon’s jumps card with the possibility of some further showers this morning. Native Robin makes the long journey north from Somerset in the 2m 4f handicap chase and he must go close despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs.
Marginal preference, however, is for the 6-y-old Absolutely Dylan (3.00) who has won two of his four starts over fences for Sue Smith and is open to further improvement.
Very First Time is very well handicapped on his best form and Tim Easterby’s 7-y-old is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time this afternoon. A market move would be worth noting. The vote, however, goes to Groundunderrepair (4.05) who will appreciate returning to a right-hand track having jumped out to the right at Kelso last time. Richard Johnson keeps the ride.
The feature race at Lingfield this afternoon (turf) is the Surrey National which will be a thorough test of stamina over a trip just shy of three miles and five furlongs. Le Reve is very well treated on his best form but has not been firing so far this term. The mare Socksy is still prone to clouting the odd fence and a chance is taken on Kilcullen Flem (3.50) for Philip Kirby. The selection is an out-and-out stayer who won over 4m at Hexham off this mark back in March.
Duel winning pointer Smiths Cross (2.15) has finished runner up in his two starts over timber and can make it third time lucky in the Maiden Hurdle over the minimum trip. The selection won a Bumper on heavy ground last spring and the forecast heavy ground is ideal.
Big Time Frank (2.45) has finished runner up in his last four starts and is now 10lbs higher in the weights for running so consistently well in that sequence. He more or less pulled himself up on the run in when beaten here by Goring One back last month, but the hope is that the first- time blinkers work the oracle as he certainly has the ability to win even from this higher mark.
In the opener at Newcastle this afternoon Nevada (5.00) is taken to go one better than when runner up in first-time blinkers over C&D in an amateur riders’ event last month. The winner and third home have done little for the form subsequently, but this lightly-raced 6-y-old looks to be progressing and he can defy a 3lbs rise.
Lion Hearted (6.00) escapes a penalty for winning an apprentice contest by 6l here over 7f on Friday and the selection has won all three starts since moving to the yard of David O’Meara. Those successes have all been gained over 7f and he must prove his stamina over this additional furlong, but it might be significant that this Irish import has two entries over a mile and one back at 7f later in the week.
Dandy Highwayman (8.00) has won two of his last three starts – all over C&D – and is only 5lbs higher than for his first win. The selection is still 15lbs lower than his highest winning mark on turf and I feel he must go close for Ollie Pears.