We’ve teamed up with BetVictor’s Charlie McCann to preview the day’s racing.
Magna Grecia is BetVictor’s 6/4 favourite for Saturday’s final Group 1 of the 2019 flat season the Vertem Futurity Stakes – formerly the Racing Post Trophy – from Doncaster. Magna Grecia was beaten just a neck by Persian King in the Autumn Stakes last time, but John Gosden’s Turgeonev (4/1 at BetVictor) and Charlie Hills Phoenix Of Spain (5/1 at BetVictor) will make sure the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt does not have it all his own way.
The opening day of Cheltenham’s season is the highlight of today’s racing and there are 89 runners declared for the seven-race card which the executive will be delighted with given the lack of rain.
The Willie Mullins-trained Grade 1 winning hurdler Diakali is likely to be all the rage in the 2m Novice Chase and looked one to follow when winning a couple of non-competitive races for Gary Moore in June. There is plenty of pace in the race, however, and I wouldn’t want to take too short a price about the nine-year-old.
The narrow vote goes to One For Billy (2.35) who is rated to reverse Worcester form with Caid du Lin at the revised terms. The selection wasn’t as good as many of today’s rivals over timber but the switch to fences has seen him in a better light and I hope he doesn’t get embroiled in a battle for the lead with the likely favourite.
Lil Rockerfella jumped well enough at Uttoxeter on chase debut and will appreciate the return to three miles, but he is likely to be another short-priced favourite who might be worth opposing over these stiff fences. I felt Treacle Tart (3.45) looked one to follow when scoring at Worcester on her chase debut and she can confirm the form with 10l runner up Arctic Gold on 5lbs worse terms this afternoon.
The maiden hurdle is worth the admission fee alone and Sebastopol (4.20) gets the narrow vote for Tom lacey having his first start over timber. The selection won a point when trained by Tom’s wife Sophie before scoring on his rules debut at Ayr back in April.
Seven De Baune and Thomas Darby are also winning bumper horses representing top yards and this is a race from which several future winners will emerge.
There are any number of horses likely to have been laid out for the amateur riders’ handicap chase and the vote goes to the progressive Asking Questions (4.55) who ran a fine race over timber last time and should be spot on for the switch back to fences.
My two against the field in the concluding conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle are Magic Dancer – unbeaten in two starts at Cheltenham - and Noah And The Arc (5.30) who looked a progressive four-year-old to keep on the right side of when scoring at Kelso last time.
There is a terrific Conditions race at Newbury this afternoon and the unbeaten Outbox (3.25) would be receiving an additional 5lbs if this were a handicap from Aspeter, but I was impressed with the win at Leicester last time and I feel he could easily make up into a Group horse for Simon Crisford next term.
At Kempton this evening, I would be quite sweet om the chances of Finishing Touch (8.15) were it not for the fact that she is drawn in stall 12 of 14. The selection is 3lbs lower than when blowing the cobwebs away over a mile here at the beginning of the month and this drip back in trip should suit. She is 3lbs lower this evening and is an each way recommendation.
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