After the excitement of a wonderful Dublin Racing Festival last weekend, this Saturday’s action doesn’t quite reach the heights and quality in comparison with Leopardstown, however there is plenty of Graded action across the cards and there may be some more Cheltenham Festival clues on offer.
Jonbon takes on three rivals in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick and, although it appears a straightforward task on paper, he will need to put in an emphatic performance to instil confidence in his backers for the Arkle following El Fabiolo’s impressive win over the Irish Sea on Saturday.
The pair, who are currently heading the ante-post betting markets in the aforementioned race at Prestbury Park, met at Aintree last year, finishing close together at the line with Jonbon narrowly prevailing. They are set to meet again at Cheltenham in what promises to be a mouthwatering clash of young chasers putting their credentials on the line.
Nicky Henderson’s star is certainly one to look forward to at Warwick tomorrow but there are other good horses on show too, and Newbury hosts a number of competitive handicaps on a card that includes the Game Spirit Chase.
The Grade Two contest has only attracted five runners in what appears a low quality race. Greaneteen is the odds-on favourite and is expected to make light work of the field here.
Course and distance winner Funambule Sivola could fare better against horses stepping up in class and is the biggest threat to the favourite if returning to form. Joe Tizzard’s in-form Elixir De Nutz could be one to keep an eye on and may challenge Venetia Williams’ charge for the runner-up spot, whilst hat-trick seeking Malystic is a progressive type capable of further improvement off a career-high mark of 149.
1:30pm Warwick – Stolen Silver 1pt win @ 10/11
Top-weight Stolen Silver gives away plenty of weight to his rivals in this contest, however he should have the class to see it through. With his closest market rival Galahad Quest being declared a non-runner, it does make it a less attractive market. With only three rivals to beat and a fair 4lbs rise to contend with, Stolen Silver could still be a good price at a shade of odds on. If able to continue his rich vein of form and put in a performance of the same standard as seen at Cheltenham last time out, he is good enough to make light work of his opponents, despite carrying 12st on his back.
1:50pm Newbury – Annual Invictus 1pt E/W @ 13/2 (most firms, 6/1 in places)
The gelded son of Mahler is an incredibly consistent horse who often finishes among the places and is four from nine over hurdles to date. He was last seen pulling up at Wincanton in a race that may have come too quickly following his third-place finish at Cheltenham earlier in December and, following a short break, should be refreshed and ready for this challenge.
At Prestbury Park on his seasonal reappearance, he made all on good, drying ground, winning gamely at odds of 12/1. He is 4lbs higher here, but benefits from 7lbs claimer Freddie Gordon taking some useful weight off his back. Conditions should suit and a price of 7/1 certainly represents some value from a win perspective as well as each-way, as, if he does find one or two better, he should at least be there or thereabouts in the closing stages and is likely to be much shorter come the off.
Trainer Chris Gordon is currently performing at a 43% strike rate and with the yard in flying form, Annual Invictus could bounce back with a good run at Newbury.
2:25pm Newbury – Does He Know 1pt E/W @ 7/1 (13/2, 6/1 in places)
Hitman started his season well with a close second in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase before winning emphatically at Haydock in November. He then lined up in the competitive King George VI Chase but was pulled up and reported to have bled from his nose. Whilst his run at Kempton may be worth forgiving given his issues, it’s unlikely he would have been a threat to eventual winner Bravemansgame.
As a seven-year-old, it may be that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in future seasons as connections clearly rate him highly, but he may be vulnerable to some elder, experienced rivals at this stage in his career, that could take advantage in the closing stages as the young Paul Nicholls-trained gelding attempts a trip over which he is unproven.
Kim Bailey’s Does He Know showed great heart when winning at Cheltenham’s November Meeting, carrying top-weight to victory in a Grade Three Handicap contest. He has subsequently been given a 6lbs rise in ratings, now running off a career-high mark of 158. The good ground shouldn’t inconvenience him and he benefits from being the only horse in the race going to Newbury off the back of a victory. He has had a couple of months break and should be fresh and ready for the task ahead, capable of running well for the excellently named owners Yes He Does Syndicate.
3:35pm Newbury – Aucunrisque 1pt E/W @ 11/1
Hat-trick seeking Filey Bay, travelling over from Ireland for Emmet Mullins, currently heads the market ahead of the 2m½f hurdling contest. He is unbeaten for his new yard and has obvious claims running in the JP McManus colours for the first time. Icare Allen runs for the same owner, representing Willie Mullins, following a third-placed finish in a Grade A handicap at Fairyhouse in December.
He has been consistent in his career to date, successful in a Grade Three Juvenile Hurdle and running well in competitive Grade One and Grade Two company.
There are plenty of others in the field worthy of consideration including Hacker Des Places who has 5lbs claimer Angus Cheleda onboard, Master Chewy who could be fairly well-handicapped, and course and distance winner Glory And Fortune who must carry top-weight in this race.
Aucunrisque, for the in-form Chris Gordon yard, is an interesting each-way contender, now back over hurdles. The consistent seven-year-old won a Grade Two Novices’ Hurdle last February and clearly has a lot of talent. He often finishes amongst the places and represents great value at 16/1.
Onemoreforoad is one at a bigger price (25/1) that could outrun his odds. He has been out of form of late but has shown promise in the past and is now 1lbs lower than his last winning mark.