DECLARATIONS for the bulk of tomorrow’s action at Newbury aren’t made until later this morning so, as always, it’s pretty tough peering through the looking glass trying to second guess running plans.
All eyes will be on Nicky Henderson’s Santini if he makes his eagerly awaited chasing debut in the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase (12.45pm).
A Grade One winner over hurdles at Aintree when last seen in action in April, the six-year-old is already a warm favourite for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March without having ever jumped a fence in public.
With plenty of rain forecast to fall tomorrow morning, the three mile contest will be a real tough opener for him in the mud and I just wonder whether Henderson may swerve the opportunity.
Either way, I think Colin Tizzard’s KILBRICKEN STORM looks a terrific bet at 9/4 with Paddy Power this morning before declarations are made.
He has had the benefit of the run when winning at Ffos Las earlier this month and had Santini behind him on bad ground at the Cheltenham Festival last year.
Tizzard has won the last three renewals of this valuable prize with Native River, Thistlecrack and Elegant Escape, and there is every chance he can make it four wins on the bounce tomorrow.
You may need to get the pin out to find the winner of the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle (1.50pm) with the 22 entries likely to be dramatically whittled down this morning.
The Tizzard team look likely to run PADLEYOUROWNCANOE who doesn’t hold multiple entries like so many of these and looks another great each-way bet at around 20/1.
Even the 14/1 about the potentially well-handicapped four-year-old looks worth a wager with four places up for grabs.
He has already had the benefit of two decent runs this campaign on good ground and I’m expecting an improvement now the rain has arrived.
All of his best form last season came on soft ground, culminating in a good fourth in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham off just a 3lb lower mark.
The Gerry Fielden Hurdle (2.25pm) looks as competitive as you might expect with the eye naturally drawn to Henderson’s Whatswrongwithyou.
He will love the ground, but didn’t look that straightforward when beaten off this mark in the Imperial Cup back in March when last seen in action.
He may bounce back to winning form here but doesn’t look one to trust.
Finally, Bigmartre has a chance to bounce back to form in the Jim Joel Trophy (3.35pm) after disappointing a little at Cheltenham last month.
He is bound to go well with the benefit of that run under his belt and he proved at this meeting last year that he goes well at Newbury.
However, I am going to take him on with DOITFORTHEVILLAGE who can be backed each-way at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.
The nine-year-old is another at home on the ground and he would have needed his reappearance run at Cheltenham two weeks ago.
In fact, he ran better than his finishing position implies as he was sneaking into contention when slipping and nearly falling two out.
He has now dropped to a mark of 135 from which he was successful at Cheltenham last year and if his jumping holds out, he may go close here.
Kilbricken Storm 12.45pm Newbury
Padleyourowncanoe e/w1.50pm Newbury
Doitforthevillage e/w 3.35pm Newbury