With seventeen runners scheduled to go to post the opening race of todays’ channel 4 coverage looks a tough nut to crack. The early favourite is the David Pipe trained La Vaticane who has a 70% career strike rate for top three finishes and is a multiple winner on soft and heavy ground. She has the ability to get involved if fully fit but was a little disappointing on her seasonal reappearance and attempts todays’ trip for the first time which is enough to put me off at current prices.
Mosspark is having his first run since finishing a runner-up at Sandown in March but that was by far his best attempt from five over fences and could be a danger if reproducing a similar run with talented young jockey Sean Bowen in the saddle.
Aloomomo steps up in class attempting to make it three wins in a row after wins at Uttoxeter and Warwick within the last month. He has gone up from 115 to 129 in the ratings as a result but is obviously race fit and improving rapidly so should be capable of making the frame at the very least.
Of the remainder, Simply Wings has a strike rate of just over 50% for top three finishes over fences and is yet to finish outside the top three when racing over todays’ race distance while Shangani runs off the same mark as when second at Taunton earlier this month and has previous winning form on soft and heavy ground so cannot be discounted.
Aloomomo (E/W if 9/2+)
Simply Wings (E/W)
Ma Filleule looks to be the class horse in this race and although has been competing over further in recent years she won two from two over todays’ trip in her early years and has posted five of her six career wins on either soft or heavy going so won’t be inconvenienced by forecast conditions.She is sure to strip fitter following her seasonal reappearance at Wetherby last month and looks to be the one they all have to beat.
Dubawi Island is upped in class and has a 7lbs rise to contend with in his hat-trick attempt but is clearly in good form and with five wins from nine over hurdles he cannot be discounted. The Venetia Williams trained six year old is proven over todays’ trip and, as with Ma Filleule, has recorded wins on soft and heavy ground so looks to be the main danger to the selection.
Ibis Du Rheu is currently close to the head of the market and although has failed to make the frame in two runs since coming over from France he remains with potential has to be considered as this represents a drop in grade.
Ma Filleule (WIN)
We move over to Newcastle for the third race live on Channel 4 and attempt to find the winner of the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle. Irving out-battled Top Notch to win the Betfair Price Rush Hurdle last weekend but had the benefit of a previous run two weeks prior to blow away any cobwebs. A concern is that this will be his third run in just three weeks so it would be no surprise to see Top Notch reverse the form. The Nicky Henderson trained four year old notched up a hat-trick last season before being beaten a neck by Peace And Co in the Triumph Hurdle and should be sharper for the recent run. However it could be argued that this may also come a little too soon after an eight month absence and therefore preference is for the current favourite Wicklow Brave who was only just over a length behind Nichols Canyon and Faugheen in the Morgiana earlier this month and has had the benefit of an extra week of rest over the aforementioned two.
Wicklow Brave (WIN)
Only five runners are scheduled to line up for our fourth televised race yet it could prove to be the best race of the day with World Hurdle winner Cole Harden again looking to lock horns with multiple Group 1 winner Whisper. Cole Harden ran a great race to win the World Hurdle when Whisper could only manage sixth but they clashed again a month later at Aintree a month later and Whisper ran out an authoritative three and a half length winner. Cole Harden has a great record of three wins from four when returning from a break yet Whisper is one from one at Newbury, is two from three over todays’ trip and has winning form on soft and heavy ground. On paper they both look very closely matched yet of the two my preference is for Whisper.
The most likely of the remainder to get in the mix is Thistlecrack who gets 4lbs from the aforementioned two and was an impressive winner of the Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree in April and was only a half length second behind Killultagh Vic when last seen at Punchestown (eight lengths clear of Shaneshill in third). If fully fit after a six month break he definitely looks to have the quality to make this more than a two horse race.
Early favourite Final Assault followed up a decent third on seasonal reappearance with an impressive four length victory on soft ground at Ayr earlier this month. He looks to be progressing well but doesn’t represent much value considering this looks a tougher race and he has a 9lbs raise to contend with.
Masters Hill has won four and placed three times from ten runs over todays’ trip to give a 70% strike rate and warmed up for this with a strong run to finish a very close second on heavy ground at Carlisle earlier this month. A similar effort today should see him go very close.
Of the remainder, Virak should benefit from jockey Harry Cobden’s 7lbs claim and has an impressive win rate of 50% over fences but needs to improve on a mid-field finish when last seen in October, while The Last Samuri has won three and placed once from five over fences and has previously run well fresh so cannot be discounted in another tough looking race.
Masters Hill (E/W)
Seventeen runners arrive here for the Hennessey Gold Cup and this looks no easier than our first race of the TV selections to dissect. Saphir Du Rheu has won three of his last four and was only a couple of lengths behind Cole Harden when second in the World Hurdle last year. He is proven over trip, proven on the forecast ground and has a 50% career win strike rate. The only slight concern is that he has raced three times here at Newbury without success, placing 3rd and 4th and unseating his rider. Having said this I would be surprised to see him out of the first four here today.
Ned Stark is an exciting addition to the race and looks capable of making the frame. A winner in his last three races when running on soft ground, including one here at Newbury and one over todays’ trip, he looks to be one to keep an eye on both today and over the course of the season.
Bobs Worth won this race back in 2012 en-route to winning the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup although its now almost two years since he last won over fences. Returning for this season over hurdles at Aintree he hinted that a return to his best may not be far away, beating the returning Simonsig by just over a length, although I feel he will have to improve again to get in the mix here.
Theatre Guide was third in this race off a 6lbs higher mark in 2013 and although is yet to win in four attempts over todays’ trip he has placed twice and could again sneak a place at likely bigger odds.
Of the remainder If In Doubt and Fingal Bay are also considered suitable each way alternatives in a highly competitive race.
Saphir Du Rheu (E/W if 9/2+)
Ned Stark (E/W)
Early favourite Stellar Notion has won three from four over todays’ trip yet arrives here with a bit of a point to prove after two disappointing performances at the back end of last season. He won on racecourse debut and also won on reappearance last season so has to be respected.
Lough Kent was travelling well before making a mistake a couple of fences from home on his seasonal reappearance at Cheltenham earlier this month so would have to be considered in with a decent chance here given a clear round. A solid run from La Vaticane (who finished just ahead in the Cheltenham race) earlier on the card would also point to a big run from the Nicky Henderson trained six year old.
However a chance is taken on Whispering Harry who is the only course and distance winner in the line-up and won on his second start of the season in both 2014 and 2013. Futhermore, he has a 43% win rate over fences and all six career wins have come on either soft or heavy ground so looks to be a bit of value at likely double figure odds.
Whispering Harry (E/W)