THIS is the time of year when the nerves really start to jangle for jockeys, trainers, owners and punters.
We are only 11 days away from the Cheltenham Festival and we’ve already seen some high profile absentees this week.
There will be others who miss the party, but trainers can’t wrap their horses up in cotton wool and it has to be business as usual.
Newbury stages its Greatwood Charity Raceday tomorrow and although it’s never the highest quality card, there are always lots of interesting handicaps.
The most valuable race of the day is the Greatwood Gold Cup (2.40pm) which has been something of a Paul Nicholls benefit.
Introduced in 2004, the prize has headed back to Ditcheat on eight occasions and the 10-time champion jumps trainer saddles three in his bid for more glory.
The problem is that Dolos is stepping up in trip and has to carry top weight, while Warriors Tale is running off a career high mark.
San Benedeto is undoubtedly well handicapped, but he was desperately disappointing at Ascot last time.
Of the three I’d favour Warriors Tale, as he has such strong form at Newbury, but I’m going to leave the Nicholls trio alone and back JAVERT instead at 14/1 with Ladbrokes.
Emma Lavelle’s 10-year-old has only had 11 career starts and is clearly very fragile.
Prior to his win at Uttoxeter in September, he hadn’t been seen for well over two years when taking a handicap chase at Haydock.
That layoff showed his ability to go well fresh and he then ran an excellent race to be second to Frodon in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October.
Far from disgraced when sixth in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, a return to a flat track like Newbury will suit him perfectly.
Lavelle’s horses are in excellent form and this son of Kayf Tara has the potential to rate higher than his mark of 149.
The veterans’ series has been a huge success and we have another cracking race to look forward to tomorrow in the Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Chase (2.05pm).
Dr Richard Newland won the 2014 Grand National with Pineau De Re and he’s trying to repeat the dose this year with Abolitionist.
The 11-year-old was a hugely impressive winner of a Pertemps qualifier at Aintree in November on his first start for the yard.
He must have a good chance tomorrow, but he’s quite short and I’m more interested in THEATRE GUIDE for the in-form Colin Tizzard yard.
Although he has never won at Newbury, he has been placed twice in what is now called the Ladbrokes Trophy.
It’s been a long time since he last got his head in front but he’s now down to a career low mark of 137 and proved the fire still burns when finishing second at Sandown last time.
Good ground is the key to him and with little rain in the forecast, conditions should be ideal.
He looks the best each-way bet at 10/1 with Coral.
It’s certain to be pretty quick at Doncaster which is likely to leave a depleted field for the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase (3.35pm).
Alan King has said this week that unless there is significant rain Dingo Dollar won’t run which may leave the door open for Kim Bailey’s ROCKY’S TREASURE.
Regular readers will remember that I put him up for the Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick in January when he was very disappointing behind Ok Corral.
However, that’s the second time he’s been to Warwick and underperformed so it may just be that he doesn’t like it round there.
His best form has generally come on decent ground at flat tracks which is exactly what he’ll get at Doncaster tomorrow.
He is two from two on Town Moor so if you can get any of the 11/4 this morning, I’d advise taking it as I expect him to go off shorter than that.
Theatre Guide e/w