OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle
If You Say Run was Grade 2 placed around this time last season and she finished runner-up to Mia’s Strom in a listed event most recently. She is a rock solid mare but would be vulnerable to an improver.
Magic Of Light has taken her form to new heights this season, with a fine third in the Troytown followed by a demolition of a field in a listed race a Newbury. As we saw last year Jessica Harrington knows how to train a good mare and she will prove tough to beat.
Culture De Sivola looks set to go off favourite and was an impressive winner of a handicap at Kempton over the festive period under Lizzie Kelly. She is on a real upward curve and she may not be finished just yet.
Jester Jet carriers top weight having finished runner-up on her last four starts. She was a beaten favourite on the last of these runs, which was disappointing but if she returned to the form that saw her finish just over a length inferior to Maria’s Benefit then should go close.
Selection: Magic Of Light
Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle
Charles Byrnes is an absolute maestro when it comes to handicapping horses and his Thosedaysaregone looks the answer in this contest. The six-year-old made the trip from his Limerick base to easily land a handicap at Wetherby seven days ago and off a nine pound higher mark, he must have a strong chance.
Nicky Richards’ has his string in great form and Better Getalong may provide him with another winner here. He finished runner-up to Ballymoy on seasonal debut and runs off the same mark here which gives him leading claims. The only thing that would temper my enthusiasm is that he’s never won on better ground but if the rain arrives he’ll run well.
New Quay is a course and distance winner that represents the bang in form Dan Skelton yard. He was a runaway winner of an Ascot handicap in November and there were excuses for his flop five days later but following a 72 break, he should be cherry ripe for this challenge.
Selection: New Quay
Bet365 Handicap Chase
Mister Whitaker was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival last season in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase and began this season in the same form by winning a listed race, along with a fourth-place finish in the BetVictor Gold Cup. He has a very progressive profile with assistant trainer Jack Channon saying:
“We massively feel there’s more to come. He’s a fair price at 33-1 for the Ryanair and could be an awful lot shorter after one of the next two weekends if all goes well.”
Happy Diva is one of the most consistent horses in training with the only disappointment coming when being brought down at Cheltenham in the BetVictor Gold Cup. She followed this up with a runner-up finish back at the Cotswold track and although she runs here off a career-high mark, she keeps improving and should run well.
Mr Medic is five from nine over fences and ran well in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup most recently. This was his first experience of a big field competitive handicap and with that experience behind him, then he could feature strongly.
Selection: Happy Diva
Clarence House Chase
In truth, a disappointing turnout for this Grade 1 prize with the ground conditions and the presence of Altior scaring off most pretenders. Nicky Henderson’s gelding has won his all of his sixteen starts over jumps and will book his ticket to Cheltenham where he’ll defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase title.
Altior faces two rivals and should he underperform for some reason, then the returning Fox Norton will pick up the pieces. The former Grade 1 winner hasn’t been seen since pulling up in the 2017 renewal of the King George. The classy individual will undoubtedly improve from the run and a watching brief is advised.
The Paul Nicholls’ trained Diego Du Chamil completes the trio and although he’s obviously a smart horse, he’s rated 19 pounds inferior to Altior and it would be a huge shock if he were to feature.
Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle
It’s disappointing that we don’t get to see Angels Breath but Nicky Henderson is represented but another smart prospect in the form of Mister Fisher who was beaten a short-head on hurdling debut and duly opened his account over timber at Kempton. He was thought good enough to contest a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree last season and is an exciting horse.
Bright Forecast has won both his career starts over hurdles at Newbury and Leicester in a likeable fashion. This obviously represents a big step up in class for Ben Paulings five-year-old and he should give the favourite a good test.
Of the others, Idee De Garde is a progressive horse for the Skelton operation and could pick up the pieces should the principals disappoint.
Selection: Mister Fisher
The race is named after The New One and rightly so with Nigel Twiston Davies charge winning the last four runnings of the race. There will be a new name on winners list this year after The New One was retired back in December.
Mohaayed provided Bridget Andrews with a first Cheltenham Festival winner when landing the County Hurdle in 2018. Dan Skelton’s charge took a second big handicap when winning the Betfair Hurdle most recently and in a race lacking a proper Grade 1 horse he may prove best.
Western Ryder was actually sent off favourite in the International Hurdle where he finished four lengths behind Brain Power. He followed this up with another placing in the Betfair Hurdle behind the aforementioned Mohaayed. He’s a real solid horse but looks set to come up short once again.
Silver Streak won the Welsh Champion Hurdle on season debut this season and he followed this up runner-up finishes in the Greatwood and International Hurdle. He looks set to go off favourite but I think he may come up short here.
Peter Marsh Chase
Grand National winner One For Arthur makes only his second appearance since landing the National and unfortunately for connections he only made it to the 3rd fence where he and Tom Scudamore parted ways. I’m sure a clear round will be the main objective here with one eye firmly on Aintree in a bid for a second National.
Valtor has been burdened with 11-10 but the French import doesn’t come with a typical “French profile” having only made the trip across the channel at the age of nine. On his first start for Nicky Henderson, the Grade 3 winner demolished a strong-looking field in an Ascot handicap. The handicapper was equally impressed and duly hiked him up 12 pounds for that success which I think may prove too much.
David Pipe’s Daklondike has won four of his last six starts over fences and has risen a total of 31 pounds in over a year. There is no doubt he’s a horse on the up but he needs soft conditions to excel and has never won with the “Good” in the going description, which puts me off him.
Robinsfirth has only had 11 career starts which is very surprising considering Colin Tizzards inmate just turned 10. He improved with each start this year ultimately landing a Grade 3 at Cheltenham in December. The handicapper only gave him four pounds for that win and a big run looks on the cards.
Others of interest include Ballyarthur and Ballydine who both race out of the handicap but are in good form and should both give a good showing.