There is a “cracking” card at Newbury on Friday where ITV is bringing us four races. Paisley Park is the star attraction in the Long Distance Hurdle where it’s hard to see anything beating him. Glen Forsa and Kalashnikov renew rivalry and Champ should have a nice pop around on his way to winning the Berkshire Chase.
Free Bet Handicap Chase
O O Seven and Kalashnikov ae joint top-rated in here with BHA marks of 155 respectively. Nicky’s charge was twice Grade 1 placed over hurdles and won two decent handicaps last season. That being said life will be tougher this season and he may need some help from the handicapper.
Amy Murphy’s Kalashnikov was runner-up in the Supreme back in 2018 and made the breakthrough at Grade 1 level at Aintree last season . He began the current campaign with a pleasing second in the Old Roan Chase and could be hard to beat in this company.
That being said he was trounced by the re-opposing Glen Forsa in the Kingmaker last season. Jumping let Mich Channon’s charge down at the Cheltenham and Aintree spring festivals but if ironing out those issues he’d have a big chance.
The rarely seen and injury-prone Gala Ball is also of interest for the Hobbs team. He returned from a near two-year absence to finish second and then go on to win at Newbury last season. Given his past, I’m sure he’ll be ready to do himself justice again off only a four-pound higher mark.
Selection: Glen Forsa
This Grade 2 novice event has proved a good stepping stone for horses in the past such as Clan Des Obeaux, Denman and Coneygree. Champ was all the rage to win the Ballymore last season after winning the Challow impressively but came up short behind City Island. He made amends in the Doom Bar at Aintree and jumped well throughout on chase debut earlier in the month.
Vision Des Flos is the top-rated in here with a mark of 155 and his having his second run over fences in total having unseated early on chase debut over a year ago. He’s been Grade 1 placed over the smaller obstacles but may struggle to beat Champ.
Of the others, Black Op must be considered with the wind-op working the oracle at Stratford last time out. The former Grade 1 winner has the class to feature to there are more progressive types in here.
Long Distance Hurdle
Unowhatimeanharry bids for a third victory in the race with wins in 2016 and 2018 already to his name. He’s rated only two-pounds lower than last season victory and with a decent pipe-opener behind the re-opposing The Worlds End under his belt, he should go well.
Another previous winner of interest is Beer Goggles who hasn’t been seen in 671 days. He’s a talented individual and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares on his first start for Nicky Martin.
The one they all need to beat is Paisley Park who was a revelation over longer trips last season culminating with victory in the Stayer’s Hurdle at Cheltenham. He’s clear on ratings and it’s tough to see him getting beat.
The field is made up by Thistlecrack who took this back in 2015 but doesn’t seem to be the force of old.
Selection: Paisley Park
Newbury Handicap Hurdle
I can easily make a case for 10 of the 18 runners here with Dolphin Square most likely to start favourite. The David Maxwell owned and ridden gelding has won 3 of his 5 starts over timber and steps into handicap company for the first time off a mark of 131 which looks fair.
The most unexposed in the field is One For The Team who represents the in-form Nick Williams yard. He’s won had four career starts and although he’s yet to win over timber the form of his second behind Big Shark has since been franked and seems to be on a lenient mark.
I’ll take a chance on Closing Ceremony from the Emma Lavelle stable. He was a Grade 2 winner in 2015 but has been blighted by injuries since then. He made a victorious return to lad a mini gamble at Haydock last season and with only five pounds more to shoulder, I think he can strike first time out.
Brittish point-to-point winner As I See It stayed on well to win at Exeter on seasonal debut. The extra distance along with the benefit of the run should bring about further improvement and a four-pound rise looks manageable.
Selection: Closing Ceremony