Mister Whitaker has been raised 7lbs for his Carlisle success at the weekend and Mick Channon’s progressive chaser will carry 10st 13lbs for the BetVictor Gold Cup on Saturday week if Colin Tizzard’s top-weight Thistlecrack (11st 12lbs) stands his ground.
Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be (10st 10lbs) is 8/1 joint favourite with BetVictor alongside Mister Whitaker although the Neil Mulholland-trained Kalondra (10st 9lbs) has been the best backed horse this week and is 10/1 from 16s.
The ground was described as good to soft yesterday, with further rain forecast, for Newbury’s first jumps card of the season.
In the opening conditional jockey’s event New Quay has been raised 17lbs for his fluent win at Ascot over 2m 3f on Saturday and can run under just a 7lbs penalty this afternoon. He will be a very short price to follow up given he is 10lbs ‘well-in’ but this will be slower ground and almost half a mile shorter. Dan Skelton is almost obliged to run the gelding before his new mark comes into effect.
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Jonjo O’Neill Jr rides Knight Destroyer (12.40) for his father and I feel this slower ground can help the jumping of the four-year-old who should improve for his comeback on ground faster than ideal last month.
Mister Fisher (1.15) makes his eagerly-awaited hurdles debut for Nicky Henderson in a race the yard won with Claimantakinforgan 12 months ago. The selection disappointed in the Aintree Bumper having created a very favourable impression when making a winning debut – well supported in the market – at Kempton.
Olly Murphy’s once-raced Garrettstown won his only Bumper at Chepstow on heavy ground but may need further and a bigger danger may come from winning pointer Bold Plan who looked potentially smart when second at Wincanton back in the spring.
The Beginners’ Chase is worth the admission fee alone and I am surprised to see Lostintranslation running over an extended 2m 6f for his chase debut. He failed to get home in his point over 3m in his native Ireland and I feel he was just outstayed at Aintree in a 2m 4f Grade 1 Hurdle back in the spring.
Thomas Campbell has been pulled out of a couple of races in recent days because of the prevailing fast ground and he was the best of these over timber. I don’t know why but he never struck me as the chasing type and I hope to see the mare La Bague Au Roi (1.50) make a winning chase debut in receipt of 7lbs from the boys.
The selection is a seven-year-old but has the scope to jump a fence and, historically, is at her best in the first half of the season.
The Mares’ Novices Hurdle is another belting contest testimony to the forecast ease in the ground, but also Newbury is such a beautiful galloping track. All nine runners are previous winners in Bumpers or over timber and preference for Henderson’s Lust For Glory (2.25) is marginal over Duhallow Gesture.
The selection won her sole point and was too keen when third on her British debut at Ascot before landing the odds at Ludlow back in May. Her Bumper form is not as good as Anthony Honeyball’s mare, who finished third in the Aintree Bumper at the Grand National meeting, but she is another exciting inmate at Seven Barrows.
Kapcorse (3.30) is 12lbs higher than when scoring at Bangor on his chase debut, but he is open to considerable improvement and faces largely exposed rivals in the 2m 4f handicap chase. Siruh Du Lac would be one to note if the market spoke in his favour.
At Market Rasen, Festival Dawn (1.30) is taken to go one better than when runner up to a useful sort of Paul Nicholls’ (Post Trish) on her return. She is likely to make sure this is a true test under Tom O’Brien.
The listed Mares’ Chase is a terrific race and I must give Casablanca Mix (2.05) the nod given she is entitled to improve for her Kempton comeback when she pecked on landing with the race up for grabs. Drinks Interval will ensure it is a true test and the selection has yet to confirm her stamina for the trip, but her pedigree suggests she may even improve for three miles.
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