Soldier in Action has enough to cope with Doncaster test

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News broke just after midday yesterday that brilliant novice and King George winner Thistlecrack was out for the season following what trainer Colin Tizzard described as a “slight tendon tear” and stablemate Native River now heads the Gold Cup betting at BetVictor at 5/2 with the evergreen Cue Card at 7/2 and Djakadam at 5/1.

In today’s Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster the eye is immediately drawn to Diable De Sivola’s second - beaten less than two lengths - to Triumph Hurdle favourite Defi Du Seuil (receiving 4lbs) at Cheltenham back in November. The result may have flattered the Nick Williams-trained juvenile however, and preference goes to Nicky Henderson’s Soldier in Action (2.45).

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The selection was highly tried at Musselburgh on his jumps debut when backed into 5/2 in their listed Triumph Hurdle trial jumping well in the main before tiring on the run to the last. Stamina should not be an issue given the gelding stayed 12f on the level and I would be disappointed if he didn’t leave that Musselburgh run behind especially if the ground remains good in south Yorkshire.

I think Skipthecuddles (3.15) could be well treated for his handicap debut having scored readily over the best part of 2m 6f last time at Wetherby.

Connections are keen to let the six-year-old take his chance at Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett and if that is the case then he must go close from his opening mark. The form of his second at Hereford on his penultimate start was given a boost when the winner (Keeper Hill) landed a competitive listed contest at Huntingdon earlier in the month and I would be disappointed if the Graeme McPherson trained gelding didn’t go very close.

Former Grand National runner-up Saint Are is only 1lb higher than when scoring in the Veterans’ Chase 12 months ago and will make a bold bid from the front but I think connections may have found a good opportunity for Blue Kascade (3.45) to get back to winning ways.

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The selection is ridden by 7lbs conditional Rachael McDonald and this represents a step up in class for the ten-year-old but he looked quite progressive before disappointing at Kelso last time.

Trainer Sandy Thompson has given him a short break and he is one of four ten-year-olds in the field. Seventh Sky (50/1 for the National with BetVictor) is considered the main danger in a competitive heat which highlights once again what an excellent addition to the calendar Veterans’ events have become.

I’m looking forward to the reappearance of Paint The Clouds who is 20/1 at BetVictor to go two better than last year in next month’s Foxhunters Chase for Warren Greatrex.

The selection has won this corresponding race for the last two-years and he will take all the beating in his quest for a hat-trick.

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At Ludlow, I feel Dino Velvet (4.10) might be well-handicapped in the two-mile handicap hurdle for Alan King.

The selection finished runner up to Don Bersy at Warwick last month and the form was franked when the winner landed the Victor Ludorum at Haydock last weekend.

At Punchestown, there is a fantastic listed Mares’ Hurdle with marginal preference for Apple’s Jade (2.25) over Limini given the former has race fitness on her side whilst the latter is making her belated seasonal reappearance.

The selection was a facile Grade 1 winner at Aintree last spring and seemed to appreciate the step up in distance when beating Limini’s stablemate Vroum Vroum Mag at Fairyhouse when last seen in December.

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Limini won the mares’ novices hurdle at last season’s Festival before finishing in the places at both Aintree and Punchestown – she is likely to be fit enough for her first start of the season but it is the Gordon Elliot-trained Apple’s Jade who gets the vote.

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