Silver Vase Chase
Rene’s Girl looked to have a Grade 1 at her mercy last season only for the ill-fated Finnian’s Oscar to chin her in the final strides at Aintree. Dan Skelton’s mare ran well on seasonal debut at Carlisle behind Mister Whitaker where she lost all chance at the last. She was slightly disappointing in the Peterborough Chase but back against her own sex she can bounce back.
Lady Buttons has looked very impressive in both her starts this season, one over hurdles and one over fences and she may be able to continue the winning streak but I think she could come up short against some classier rivals.
Drinks Interval has won three times since April but has also had an incredibly busy time of it having run ten times in that time frame. She ran another solid race behind Magic Of Light at Newbury ten days ago but I think all her recent excursions are beginning to take their toll.
Selection: Rene’s Girl
Mandarin Handicap Chase
Sandy Beach had in hindsight dropped to a very attractive mark when sluicing in at Uttoxeter in November and the handicapper acted accordingly slapping him with an 8-pound penalty. That victory came on the back of a wind surgery and if it continues to have the desired effect then he could still be well treated.
It took Reikers Island four attempts to win a point to point but he’s made a pretty immediate mark on racing inside the rails. His latest chase victory over Some Chaos was very impressive and a reproduction of this would see if double his tally over fences.
Sir Ivan demonstrated his jumping frailties when falling two out when last seen in action but in the same breath, he showed his class by finishing third to recent Wesh National winner Elegant Escape in a Grade 2 last season. A reproduction of that run would see him bang there but his jumping would be a worry and is not a horse to place too much trust in.
Others of note include Ballydine, Vice Et Vertu and Aurillac.
Selection: Reikers Island
This is a Grade 1 contest for novices and has been won by some very smart horses in recent times, with Denman, Diamond Harry and Reve De Sivola all previous winners. This year’s crop of novices look quite good with Champ looking the pick of them. The Nicky Henderson trained gelding must have been showing plenty at home to earn his name and after four wins from six runs, he’s slowly earning his title. His last win was only in a handicap so he needs to improve to take this but there is no reason he can’t take the step up in grade in his stride.
Coolanly provided Paddy Brennan with a notable treble at Cheltenham in November, when powering up the hill to beat Pym in a Grade 2 contest. This is the best piece of form on offer and although many will argue that Champ has more potential, that was only Coolanly’s fifth run over hurdles. He has already run in two Grade 1 events which I think will give him an important edge over his rivals.
Tom Lacey does very well with the limited ammunition he gets and he seems to have a very nice prospect on his hands in the form of Kateson. The five-year-old son of Black Sam Bellamy was Grade 2 placed in bumpers and is unbeaten in two starts over hurdles. This obviously represents a huge jump in class but he should run well all the same.
Others to seriously consider include the lightly raced Brewin’Upastrom and the unbeaten Grade 2 winner Alsa Mix.
Betway Novices’ Handicap Chase
Another promising looking horse from the Tom Lacey yard is Polydora. He’s only had two runs over fences but looked smart when winning the second of these runs at Newcastle on the first of the month. This dual hurdle winner should progress nicely over fences and is a horse to follow.
Nicky Henderson is responsible for the top-weight Wenyourreadyfreddie who’s only defeat thus far this season came behind the very smart Lil Rockerfella. He jumped markedly left at Ascot most recently which shouldn’t be too much of an issue on this track and he looks the one to beat.
Wilde Blue Yonder must be so frustrating for connections and if you told them after he finished fifth in the Supreme behind Vatoour that four years later he wouldn’t have added to his tally of one victory over hurdles they would have laughed in your face. Unfortunately, that is the case, injury meant he only graced the racecourse once in over three years. In the past year or so he seems to have put injuries behind him but another victory seems to elude him and most recent form figures “FF” won’t help the issue. If he can pull it all together, then there is undoubted ability.