As well as an excellent card at Newbury on Saturday there is a good card at Warwick where the feature race is the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novice Chase. The market is headed by Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra – 2/1 at BetVictor – who would be something to bet on if the ground was good to soft or better. There are strong winds expected to hit Britain over the weekend but, at the time of writing, there is little rain forecast. Do note Skelton has suggested that he will bypass Cheltenham in favour of a crack at Aintree’s Grade 1 Novice over two miles.
There is a good card at Huntingdon this afternoon on ground described yesterday as good to soft. The Caroline Bailey/Sean Bowen combination did us a favour at Market Rasen courtesy of Lady Master earlier in the week and they team up again with recent C&D winner Thomas Shelby who has been raised just 7lbs for what was a fluent win here in December. The 9-y-old has avoided the deepest of the ground and must go close but I hope to see a big race on his chase debut from Master Card (1.31) who gets the each way vote.
The selection is missing his right eye but has the scope to jump a fence and finished within a length of Danny Whizzbang over timber at Hereford over hurdles. He may need a stiffer test of stamina going forward but is built to carry weight and the Warren Greatrex yard are showing signs of a return to form.
It wasn’t the greatest of races that Lots Of Luck (2.01) won at Taunton on Sunday but he was very impressive, and I would be disappointed if he didn’t go very close under a 7lbs penalty for Kim Bailey. Mistercobar steps back up in trip having been staying on over the minimum trip – from a 4lbs lower mark – at Leicester last time but has the steadier of 12st 6lbs.
The listed Sidney Banks Hurdle is the feature race and it would not have looked out of place at a Grade 1 course at a weekend. Hang In There and Pacify are penalised and this looks to rest between Shan Blue and Shiskin (2.31) with preference for the latter who currently heads the market – 7/2 with BetVictor – for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Shiskin should have no problem stepping up to 2m 3f for the first time this afternoon given he has won a three-mile point and he looked a possible future star when beating Shakem Up’Arry 11L at Newbury last time. Shan Blue may not have got home over 2m 5f at Warwick last time and this slight drop in trip on better ground should suit. This really is a race to savour.
The Tom Symonds yard remain largely out of sorts but what could go wrong did go wrong for Est Ilic (2.23) at Doncaster last time and he returns to Town Moor this afternoon from a 3lbs lower mark. The selection will appreciate today’s additional furlong and the booking of Brian Hughes catches the eye.
Earlier in the card I hope to see Zoffee (1.53) make it third time lucky in the juvenile maiden hurdle for Philip Hobbs who brings his four-year-old north in search of some decent ground. The selection is currently rated 125 and the bottom weight in last year’s Fred Winter Hurdle at next month’s Festival was rated 129. Thus, if connections have any Cheltenham aspirations you would imagine Zoffee would have to go very close this afternoon.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with BetVictor brand ambassador Michael Owen out in Dubai this week where his Angel Alexander (4.15) is reported to be training very well ahead of today’s turf listed handicap. Likely favourite Ekhtiyaar has been raised just a couple of pounds for his recent C&D win in a fast time, but last season’s Ayr Gold Cup winner receives 6lbs from the home runner and Tom Dascombe’s four-year-old gets the vote.