We’ve teamed up with BetVictor to preview the day’s racing.
The Midlands Grand National is the feature race and the ground is likely to be soft come post time given there is rain forecast for late Friday afternoon into the evening at the Staffordshire venue. Spookydooky finished fourth in the corresponding race 12 months ago, hinted at a return to form when third at Exeter last time and is 10lbs lower in the weights today. The Jonjo O’Neill trained inmate looks sure to go close but he is reluctantly overlooked on this occasion.
My two against the field, however, are the veteran Portrait King (22/1 at BetVictor) and the progressive Court Frontier (3.35) and it is the latter who is 7/1 with BetVictor who gets the each-way vote.
A winner of his last three starts the nine-year-old is 8lbs higher than when scoring at Huntingdon last time and Denis O’Regan is back in the plate having ridden the horse to land a Chepstow gamble back in January.
American must have every chance of defying top-weight in a hot novices’ handicap chase over three miles for Harry Fry but preference is for Wild West Wind (2.25) in receipt of 10lbs from the top-weight. The selection is another lightly-raced improving novice who hinted that he would be seen in a better light on a left-hand track when finishing third to Label Des Obeaux at Exeter last time.
The ground is likely to be good at Kempton and Golden Spear (2.40) is expected to appreciate the step up in trip to 2m 5f having looked an unlucky loser when finishing third in a valuable handicap at Leopardstown back in January.
Trained by Tony Martin this Irish raider was balloted out of his Festival targets but he must go close with underfoot conditions ideal.
Handsome Sam (3.50) might have made his bid for glory a shade too soon at Taunton last time but he has shown distinct promise in both starts over the larger obstacles. William Featherstone is good value for his 5lbs claim and knows the six-year-old well having ridden him in his last six starts.
At Newcastle I hope to see Dubai Angel (3.45) get back to winning ways for Malcolm Jefferson in the valuable novices’ handicap hurdle. I’m not entirely convinced he needs a thorough test of stamina on soft ground at this stage of his development but he is a horse I think will be a lot better than his current mark at some stage in the future.
Titian Boy (4.20) is, arguably, better over slightly further than this two miles but he has been given a near three-month break to freshen up and he can make all with Brian Hughes again in the plate.
I thought Reverant Crust (4.55) was value for more than his three quarters of a length win over C&D here earlier in the month and the handicapper has not seen fit to raise him in the weights.
The mare Lady Buttons has won her last three starts and is, obviously, the one to beat but the selection looks a potential improver now that he has got his head in front.
At Fontwell, Sainte Ladylime (2.50) reverts to timber having failed to complete in her last couple of starts.
She was in the process of giving subsequent facile listed winner Antartica De Thaix a race at Bangor on her penultimate start, however, and she can take this 2m 5f mares’ hurdle before turning her attentions back to the larger obstacles next season.
There is a good card at Carlisle on Sunday and I am going to give Kaki De La Pree (3.55) one last chance in his first-time cheek-pieces for Tom Symonds.
The yard had a welcome winner on the flat earlier in the month and the selection beat non-other than subsequent Grand National winner Pineau De Re here over timber – albeit back in December 2013!
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