LAST weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival was many of the Irish contenders’ final chance to strut their stuff before next month’s Cheltenham Festival, and this weekend it’s the turn of some of Britain’s best to show what they are about.
Perhaps the most high-profile of those is Shishkin who bids to atone for that much talked-about mistake in the King George when he lines up in the Denman Chase (2.05pm).
Quotes of 1/2 show the authority he holds over his rivals on all known form, and providing all is well post Kempton, he should take this with relative ease on the way to a tilt at the Gold Cup.
The following Game Spirit (2.40pm) looks more competitive, although for a Grade 2, it’s not exactly brimming with quality.
Harry Fry’s Boothill was a faller over Christmas, but has been really good on both his starts before that and is probably the one to beat.
A back-to-form Edwardstone would be a danger to all, but he’s looked very out of sorts this season and you couldn’t really back him as a result.
Fry will be hopeful of winning that contest, but I also think he has a cracking chance of taking out the Betfair Hurdle (3.15pm) with ALTOBELLI.
We all know this is one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the entire season, but Altobelli looks to have an ideal profile for it.
The big question mark ahead of this year’s renewal is the weather forecast as rain is supposed to hit Newbury in a heavy way towards the end of the week, with predictions of up to 30ml set to fall at the Berkshire track.
If those predictions are true, the ground will likely be on the soft side, and that will be music to the ears of Altobelli’s connections as he is a horse that’s certainly better when there is some juice in the ground.
He was fancied to go really well at Ascot last time, but the ground dried up just a touch too much for him so to finish as close as he did wasn’t a bad effort at all.
His mark remains the same here and with conditions in his favour, he looks a very nice each-way bet.
There are many in here who could be much better than their current marks, namely Willie Mullins’ Ocastle Des Mottes, who is set to make his first start for his new yard after showing some decent form in France, but Altobelli looks rock solid to me and gets the vote at 12/1.
The other I thought had been massively overlooked was AURIGNY MILL.
If Victor Dartnall’s runner was trained by one of the more well-known handlers like Nicky Henderson or Paul Nicholls he’d be a lot shorter than 16/1, and I’m struggling to see why he’s so big a price.
He’s really progressive and couldn’t have been much more impressive on his last two starts at Wincanton and Kempton.
While he’s gone up another nine pounds for that Kempton victory, he still looks well-handicapped off a mark of 132 and the fact he’s won on heavy ground means he’ll have no issues if the heavens open.
He’s very much in the ‘could be anything’ camp, and if he can progress again, then he looks a big player.
Altobelli e/w 3.15pm Newbury
Aurigny Mill e/w 3.15pm Newbury