There is decent racing up and down the country on Saturday with potential Champion Hurdle contender Eldorado Allen putting his ability to the test against the seasoned Call Me Lord at Sandown. Laurina will be trying to forget about her Christmas mishap in the Scilly Isles, while also at Sandown Mister Malarky will look to get his season back on track in the Masters Handicap. While at Musselburgh the progressive Little Bruce will take all the beating in the Edinburgh National.
International Hurdle winner Call Me Lord has been a much-improved performer this season and has run well twice over course and distance in the Imperial Cup. The seven-year-old hasn’t stopped progressing and is the one to beat.
The lightly-raced Eldorado Allen is having a key test here en-route to a possible tilt at the champion hurdle at the Cheltenham festival. Colin Tizzard’s inmate has only one victory to his name but showed lots of potential when finishing runner-up after a year-long absence over course and distance. It’ll be intriguing to see how he fares here.
I have also loved Quel Destin and he probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He was a Grade 1 winner last season and was a non-stayer for me in the Relkeel so back to this shorter trip he must have a chance.
Selection: Eldorado Allen
Scilly Isles Chase
Nico comes in for the exciting ride on the Irish-raider Laurina who was sent off second-favourite for the Champion Hurdle last season when she finished fourth having previously won all her starts since leaving France. She began her career over fences with an easy success over Minella Indo but bled when pulling up at Leopardstown over Christmas. If she doesn’t repeat the feat, then she’s undoubtedly the one to beat.
The Twiston-Davies yard continues to be in good form and Good Boy Bobby looks like one of their more exciting prospects. He’s yet to finish out of the money in eleven starts and chased home Mister Fisher when last seen and that form has been franked since. He’s on a real upward curve and his a horse to follow.
Itchy Feet put in a career-best when finishing third in the Supreme last season and although he didn’t beat much when winning on chase debut at Leicester, he jumped well in the main and looks like an exciting recruit over fences.
Sue Smith is currently operating at a 29% strike rate so anything she runs at present warrants respects. Her Midnight Shadow seems to improve with racing and looked good when winning the Dipper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, which is the best form on offer over the larger obstacles.
Selection: Good Boy Bobby
Heroes Handicap Hurdle
The likeable Bold Plan got ten-pounds for a snug victory at Haydock in November. I thought that rise may not be beyond him at Ascot where he only made it as far as the 3rd hurdle and I’ll give him another chance.
Chris Gordon does very well with his small team and his Go Whatever has improved rapidly since going hurdling, given that it took him five attempts to win his point-to-point. That being said Irish point-to-points are incredibly competitive at present so the experience could stand to him.
There was no shame in Big Shark getting beaten by Flashjack at Haydock but I do think that Philip Hobbs charge lacks the experience required for a competitive handicap like this and he’ll improve for the run.
Selection: Bold Plan
Masters Handicap Chase
Mister Malarky has been a bitter disappointment this season given that he was a Grade 2 winner over fences last season. Colin has freshened him up since pulling up at Ascot when the ground was too soft for him, so he may be worth giving another chance.
Stuart Edmunds is going through a quiet spell at present with only six runners in the last two weeks, none of which were winners. However, he runs Classic Ben here who is a model of consistency and has run well in defeat on both starts this season. He got dropped a pound for his most recent third behind Lord Du Mesnil which looks fair and he’s a big contender.
The ex-French trained Dragon D’Estruval hasn’t had too many chances in Britain but has shown a decent level of form including a snug victory over fences at Ludlow last month. He needs to find more to feature here but it’s not out of the question.
Selection: Mister Malarky
Scottish County Hurdle
John Quinn does incredibly well with his string of horses and in particular with ex-flat horses going over hurdles. Ashington is another prime example with the ex-Luca Cumani trained gelding already winning two over timber and was beaten far behind the reopposing Sir Chauvelin over course and distance on New Year’s Day. He races off the same mark here and should turn the tables with that rival.
Sebastopol has got some smart form to his name including a close-up finish behind Whoshottheriff and Thomas Darby which makes him of obvious interest. He got ten-pounds for an easy victory at Wincanton which seems slightly harsh but he should still be competitive.
The mare Miranda is now three from five over hurdles and cosily beat Elusive Belle at Kempton for which she got a hefty rise. I do worry this might be the upper level of her ability.
This is a pretty open-looking contest with the exception of Little Bruce who is one of the few horses coming into the race in winning form and with age on his side. This will be the first visit to the Scottish track for Phil Kirby’s charge but it could be worth it given his progressive profile and the decent prize money.
Wonderful Charm has been an incredible servant to connections winning twelve races and a runner-up finish at the Cheltenham Festival to his name. He’s no “spring chicken” at the age of 12 but he’s won seven-times on seasonal debut alone which warrants respect.
The Greatrex team is another that has been struggling for winners of late but Bob Mahler give them a big chance here, with a reproduction of his Doncaster running possibly being good enough to feature and he has beaten Little Bruce in the past.
Selection: Little Bruce
Towton Novices’ Chase
This looks like a difficult race to pick apart with most of the field coming here with numerous winning brackets to their names. Dominateur should jump off as favourite given how easily he’s won both his completed starts over fences. He’s three-pounds clear form Boldmere on ratings and even though that rival won well from Bob Mahler at “Donny” I think he’s jumping is fragile.
Kim Bailey will openly say his horses haven’t been right for the season but it was encouraging to see him recently bag a winner. The shrewd trainer runs the lightly-raced Newtide here who took a Ffos Las novice chase back in November and must be held in very high regard to be pitched into a quality race, so don’t rule him out.
I’m not a fan of Scorpion as a sire but Chapel Stile seems to be taking his racing well and should improve for the extra distance here so must enter calculations.
Little Bruce – 2pt Win
Ashington – 1pt Win
Bold Plan – 2pt Win