It’s an absolute bumper day of racing on Saturday with the ITV racing team bringing us action from Wincanton, Ascot, Haydock and one race from Gowran Park.
The Reyonldstown Chase is the first graded action of the day and Top Ville Ben looks the answer for the in-form Phil Kirby team. This improving novice is chasing a hat-trick of victories and should be difficult to contain.
Yalltari only got as far as the first when last seen at Exeter and will obviously need to jump much better this time if he is to trouble the favourite. Of the others Now McGinty catches the eye but needs to find some improvement to feature.
Selection: Top Ville Ben
Clan Des Obeaux was an impressive winner of the King George over Christmas but I’ve got my reservations over the strength of that form. It was his breakthrough victory at the top tier at his fourth attempt and perhaps that will be good enough to win here but I can’t see him being there at the business end in the Gold Cup.
Terrefort was one of last season’s best novices winning a brace of Grade 1’s and finished runner-up behind Shattered Love in the JLT at Cheltenham. This season hasn’t quite gone to plan for Nicky Henderson’s charge but with an improved run should be on the cards and he’ll give Clan Des Obeaux the most to think about.
The ante-post market for this centred around two main horses, namely Al Dancer and Downtown Getaway. The former is chasing a four-timer having won all three of his previous starts over hurdles. Nigel Twiston Davies charge went up over a stone for him most recent start but the sky could be the limit for this improving six-year-old.
Getaway Trump himself seems to be a real improver, he took a real step up when finishing second to Champ in the Challow Hurdle when last seen in action. Although it can be difficult to weigh up the novice form, he should run well to a point without possibly being good enough.
Didtheyleaveuoutto won his first two starts in bumpers and went into the Champion Bumper with a big reputation but found it all about too much ultimately finishing midfield. Life over hurdles began with consummate ease for Nick Giffords charge and although he was beaten fairly in a novice event most recently, an opening mark of 139 could be lenient.
Others of note include recent winner Ar Mest, Zanza and top weight Lisp.
Paul Nicholls’ looks to have a very strong hand with Cyrname and Politologue spearheading his attack in this Grade 1 prize. It appeared that Politologue didn’t quite get home in the King George when just losing third late on. Prior to that run, he was a short margin winner of Charbel in a Grade 2 and with the much more at home back over this shorter trip.
Cyrname went very close to winning a Grade 1 last season in the Scilly Isles but just came out the wrong side of a battle with Terrefort. He was a very impressive winner of a handicap at Ascot when last seen, where he never really came off the bridle. This represents a big step up in class but he’s a horse in form.
Waitingly Patiently looks the horse, the Nicholls pair have to beat. Ruth Jefferson has had to be very patient with her stable star this fat this season. We have only seen him once since he landed his contest twelve months ago and that was when he only made it as far as the 9th fence in the King George. Given a clear round, he should be able to land back to back victories here.
Selection: Waiting Patiently
Grand National Trial
Yala Enki took this contest twelve months ago but off a welter burden 11-12. Another horse looking for a second success in the race is Vieux Lion Rouge, who took the race in 2017. David Pipe’s charge was carrying 11-06 back then and having shown in and out form since he now carries found pounds less this time around.
It’s another David Pipe inmate that tops the market, Ramses De Teillee has taken his form to a new level since benefiting from a wind operation earlier in the season. He finished runner-up to Elegant Escape in the Welsh National when last seen and having only received a five-pound penalty for that run, he must go close.
Colin Tizzard’s Robinsfirth ran an absolute stormer to finish runner-up in the Peter Marsh on his first start for 400 days. He’s incredibly lightly raced having only graced the racecourse on twelve occasions. He races here off only a two pound higher mark than when running in the Peter Marsh, which should put him in the mix.
Of the outsiders, I really like the chances of Carole’s Destrier, who was short of room at an important stage in the Classic Chase and he should sneak into the pacings.
This race sees the seasonal return of Yanworth, who hasn’t been seen since finishing sixth in the Stayers hurdle last season. Prior to that run, Alan King campaigned him over fences but another crack at the Stayers looks his main target this year. The top-rated runner in the field will have to run well here if connections are to head to Cheltenham with confidence.
Clyne ran a super race to finish runner-up in the Long Walk Hurdle in November and although he disappointed in the Relkeel at Cheltenham, he should be bang there at the finish.
The most interesting horse in the race is Kilcooley who is having his first start for Nicky Richards and actually first start in 1066 days. Kilcooley last victory came in a Grade 2 at Wetherby but if he retains his ability, he could feature.
This Grade 2 contest was used as a stepping stone by Presenting Percy last season on route to winning the RSA at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, Pat Kelly hasn’t declared his table star this time around and it leaves Monalee to face just three rivals.
Monalee was the horse to come out second best behind Presenting Percy in the RSA and although he’s run well on both starts this season, he was well held by Kemboy in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. This race offers him a golden opportunity to get his head back in front.
The JP McManus pair of Anibale Fly and Edwulf take on Monalee but both need to show improved form if they are to trouble Henry De Bromheads charge.
The final runner is Killutagh Vic who will be forever remembered for his miraculous victory in a Leopardstown event three years ago when Ruby picked him up off the floor to win. Since then Willie Mullins’ charge has only got his head in front on one occasion.
The Kingwell Hurdle is the feature race at Wincanton, where five horses look set to go to post. Sceau Royal was bidding for a five-timer in the Tingle Creek but was well and truly put in his place when he trailed in last behind Altior. A line can be put through that run and another victory looks on the cards.
Unison is a solid horse but shouldn’t be good enough to win and although Vision Des Flos hasn’t won in over a year, he’s got some smart form in the book and should give Sceau Royal the most to think about.
Selection: Sceau Royal