Soldatino and Carruthers are the best bets of the weekend

NEWBURY gets the chance to stage the totesport Trophy today following last weekend’s tragic abandonment. Sadly, both the field and the prize money for the feature race have been dramatically reduced, but my original fancy SOLDATINO is set to take his chance and should take plenty of stopping.

Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old was having his first run since winning last season’s Triumph Hurdle at Ascot last time and travelled up sweetly turning into the straight before eventually blowing up approaching the final flight. A fast run two miles on rain softened ground is ideal and the 11/2 available with Victor Chandler makes plenty of each-way appeal.

I have plenty of respect for the Alan King trained pair Walkon and Salden Licht, but reckon there may be more value in a small each-way bet on BOTHY. Brian Ellison has his string in rude health and conditions look ideal for his charge who should be thereabouts if reproducing the form that saw him narrowly beaten in the Greatwood Hurdle on his penultimate start. He can be backed each-way at 10 with Victor Chandler and fair play to the firm for paying four places even though there are only 15 runners.

Elsewhere on a cracking card, What A Friend looks to have been given a relatively straightforward opportunity in the AON Chase, but is sure to be sent off well odds-on. Instead, I’m prepared to wait for I’MSINGINGTHEBLUES in the Game Spirit Chase. David Pipe’s runner didn’t appear to get home over two miles and five furlongs on New Years Day having travelled like the winner to two out. I’m willing to forgive him his last run at Sandown which came only a week after that gruelling Cheltenham race.

Only four runners have been declared for the Novices’ Chase and Paul Nicholls’ Aiteen Thirtythree will be a warm order to make it three from three over fences. He is without doubt the one they all have to beat, but I’d rather take a chance at the prices on Philip Hobbs’ TARABLAZE. The eight-year-old may well have only won a two runner affair on his previous start, but is held in high regard at home and has been well backed for the RSA Chase in recent weeks.

Nicky Henderson could round off a great day with a win in the Bumper courtesy of Ericht. He won this race two years ago with Mad Max and this son of Alderbrook was impressive at Huntingdon last time.

There is some cracking action tomorrow and I’m going up to Haydock for the bet of the day in the Grand National Trial. CARRUTHERS hasn’t won since December 2009, but since then he has finished fourth in the Gold Cup, second in the totesport Bowl and sixth in the Hennessy. Crucially he hasn’t had the soft ground he loves in any of those races, so tomorrow’s likely bottomless conditions at Haydock will suit him perfectly. He is three from three in heavy ground in his career, winning by a combined 97 lengths.

POINTERS...
I’MSINGINGTHEBLUES e/w 1.15pm Newbury (today)
SOLDATINO e/w 1.50pm Newbury (today)
BOTHY e/w 1.50pm Newbury (today)
TARABLAZE 3.00pm Newbury (today)
ERICHT 3.35pm Newbury (today)
CARRUTHERS e/w 3.20pm Haydock (tomorrow)

COUNTDOWN TO CHELTENHAM

The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle on the opening day of the meeting is all about one horse – Quevega.

Willie Mullins’ hat-trick seeking mare is already odds-on with one firm and trading around the 2.1 (11/10) mark on Betdaq.

However, the most intriguing thing about this particular contest is the lack of opposition to the favourite.

Only SPARKY MAY seems sure to line up in less than a month’s time and she will start a lot shorter than the 7.0 currently available. This will allow us to trade in and out before the race and have a free bet against the favourite. There was also a severe lack of market confidence in Quevega in the 24 hours leading up to last year’s race and a similar trading pattern will see our selection shorten even more.

I was really taken by BOSTONS ANGEL’s win in Ireland last weekend and I just don’t see how Jessica Harrington’s duel Grade One winner can possibly trade bigger than the 17.0 currently available.

I’d be seriously surprised if he doesn’t trade in single figures come the day. Finally, the same yard’s OSCARS WELL is pressing for favouritism in the ‘Neptune’ and today’s 7.0 will be nearer 4.0 on the day.

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