Few Cheltenham clues on Saturday but Carole’s Destrier snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the second time at Newbury this season when landing the valuable Veterans’ Chase. I wouldn’t be in a rush to back him at 50/1 with BetVictor for the Grand National next month although connections confirmed that would be his end-of-season target although I’m not convinced he will get a run.
If we saw a Festival winner at Newbury on Saturday it may well have been Huntsman Son (25/1 NRNB with BetVictor) who enhanced his Close Brothers Novice Handicap Chase claims with a facile 5L success in the BetVictor Novices’ Chase for Alex Hales. A 4lbs penalty gives him a good chance of getting a run but he does need decent ground to be seen at his best.
At Southwell today, Halcyon Days looks sure to go close having finished runner up in his last couple of starts for the yard of Rebecca Menzies. Marginal preference, however is for Cybalko (2.20) who finished second over C&D back in the autumn from a 5lbs lower mark and is open to further improvement over fences having just turned six.
Good Boy Bobby (3.20) won three Bumpers for connections and scored at Carlisle on his hurdles debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies back in October. He has been off the track since finishing third at Ffos Las the following month and this will be the fastest ground he has encountered to date. River Bray made all to score at Wincanton on his first start following a wind operation, but the hope is that he gives the selection something to aim at.
Winningseverything (5.30) made a winning debut at Market Rasen back in November under Noel Fehily and he can follow up under a 7lbs penalty for Harry Fry. Several top yards are represented in what promises to be a useful Bumper, but I thought the selection looked smart in Lincolnshire and it will take a good one to lower his colours.
At Leopardstown this afternoon Zero Ten (2.00) made a successful hurdling debut at Galway back in September and his subsequent absence from the track is a concern for Emmet Mullins’ 6-year-old who has his first start left-handed under rules. The selection holds no entries at Cheltenham but if he comes through today he could easily line up at Punchestown later in the spring.
Ballybrowney Walk (4.05) drops back to an extended two miles in the handicap chase on the card and this winning pointer can gain a first win under rules. Paul Townend has been in the saddle for her last couple of starts and I hope it is third time lucky this afternoon.
At Wolverhampton this evening Steelriver is likely to be all the rage having scored by 4l over C&D last time from a 7lbs lower mark. The 9-y-old has defied higher marks than this in the past but I feel Bobby Joe Leg (6.15) can reward each way support for Ruth Carr.
The selection has been knocking on the door of late and scored from a 4lbs higher mark over C&D back in April. He has a better draw than the likely favourite and trainer Ruth Carr had a winner here last week.
Kelly’s Dino (6.45) has a good record fresh and is another each way recommendation in the valuable 12f Handicap. Karl Burke’s lightly-raced 6-y-old has finished 1st and 3rd in his two course runs and looked better than ever last year.
Questionaire (7.45) holds an entry in the Derby and makes his belated racecourse debut in the extended nine-furlong Novice event for John Gosden. The colt is bred to be smart although he is fitted with a tongue-tie for his first start.
Both Sundiata (8.15) and Designated drop back in trip to 6f having faded close home in their respective races last time. Oisin Murphy takes over on Charles’ Hills filly whose stable have won with their last couple of runners.