BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND’S RACING
AS CHELTENHAM gets ever nearer the quality of racing unsurprisingly deteriorates and this is one of the most low-key weekends of the whole season.
There are still opportunities to boost the betting bank, though, and the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury tomorrow (3.25pm), with the declarations already known, is the obvious place to start.
Paul Nicholls has won this race six times and, fresh from his success with Rocky Creek at Kempton last Saturday, Sound Investment is the one tasked with continuing Ditcheat’s incredible Saturday winning run.
However, although he has solid form this season, he has to carry top weight and no horse has won this with more than 11st5lb on his back.
Another reason I’m prepared to take him on is that he is five wins from nine runs at right-handed courses for Nicholls, compared with no wins from eight racing anti-clockwise.
That’s probably a little unfair, as he finished a good second over course and distance in November, but it’s still enough to put me off.
Venetia Williams won this race 12 months ago with Shangani and I fancy her to repeat the feat tomorrow with BENNYS MIST.
The nine-year-old ran a cracker to be second to Ma Filleule in the Topham last April on ground that would have been too quick. He then produced another strong performance over the National fences in the Grand Sefton back in December.
A return trip to Aintree is surely on the cards, but he ran really well last time at Sandown when just getting tired over an extended three miles.
This trip is perfect and, although the ground is currently quoted as good-to-soft, soft in places, I’m sure it’s going to ride more testing than that.
Bennys Mist hasn’t run at Newbury since winning a novice chase by 26 lengths just under two years ago and he is a strong fancy to give his yard another win in the race.
Earlier on the card, David Pipe could run impressive Exeter winner SOLL in the Betway-backed Greatwood Veterans’ Chase (2.15pm) and if the 10-year-old takes his chance he should be backed accordingly.
Formerly trained by Willie Mullins, he was then moved to Jo Hughes before joining Pipe’s Nicholashayne yard last October. He was well supported at Exeter earning the rise in the weights that will see him get into the Grand National.
This race looks the ideal prep for Aintree and he will relish the testing ground.
If he doesn’t line-up, old boy Carruthers could be interesting at a course he loves. The key to him is getting his own way up front and if he manages that he will be difficult to peg back.
The highlight up at Doncaster is the Grimthorpe Chase (3.45pm) and last year’s winner Night Of Milan is respected at a course he adores. Keith Reveley’s inmate is an interesting outsider for the Grand National and a win here will see his Aintree odds plummet.
He carried 10st12lb last year, though, and he’s going to be near enough top weight this time and this race normally goes to less exposed horses towards the bottom of the weights.
Leading Irish jockey Davy Russell has been jocked up for Charlie Longsdon’s DROP OUT JOE and that is a very interesting booking.
The seven-year-old won on his chasing debut at Carlisle in October and was then out of his depth behind Kings Palace at Cheltenham and Irish Saint at Ascot. However, those two runs have seen his handicap mark drop back to 132 and that looks workable.
This is quite a hard race for a novice, but Russell is a world class pilot and Drop Out Joe looks to hold a decent each-way chance in what could be a fairly weak race.
Pipe could be celebrating an across-the-card double as BATAVIR will be very hard to beat if lining up in the handicap hurdle (3.10pm).
A number of the stable’s potential Cheltenham handicap hurdlers have been entered over the past few days in the hope they can secure a penalty to get in at Prestbury Park.
Batavir is highly progressive, winning impressively at Ascot under AP McCoy in December, before following up in a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
He is currently the 9/1 favourite with Betway for the Pertemps Final and if he wins tomorrow he will be guaranteed a spot in the line-up.
SOLL 2.15pm Newbury (tomorrow)
BATAVIR 3.10pm Doncaster (tomorrow)
BENNYS MIST e/w 3.25pm Newbury (tomorrow)
DROP OUT JOE e/w 3.45pm Doncaster (tomorrow)