Today’s live action begins at Sandown with the 13:50 a Two mile Chase. Ulk Du Lin looked to be put in his place on his last run at Ascot by Ballygarvey and despite the latter carrying an extra 4lb today than Paul Nicholls’ charge as opposed to receiving a 1lb advantage when successful last time the same outcome looks likely. Ulk Du Lin Wasn’t blessed with the easiest of rounds, hampered early on and in the latter stages not completely error free, but held every chance two fences from home before being out battled by Phillip Hobbs’ 9 year old. Ballygarvey saw out his race well that day and despite the rise looks to have returned to racing on an upward curve and will be the first pick. French opera contested better contests in 2014 before dropping to this level last time at Wetherby. He ran well just failing to grab the spoils, if repeating that effort here he could easily be involved. Of the bigger prices Arkaim has an excellent record over fences and looks on an upward curve but both the jockey and trainer’s course record leaves a lot to be desired however.
14:05 Ffos Las
Next up we head west to Ffos Las and the third race on their card the Welsh Champion Hurdle off at 14:05. The Rebecca Curtis trained Foryourinformation heads the betting here. Winner of both starts here He will surley be popular with the punters. Lightly raced his previous form reads well, although this is a harder contest than when holding on under Tony McCoy here last time. This is a decent sized field and with fairly short odds it may pay to look for an each way angle. A Doll In Milan could well provide us with that angle. Like the favourite she is lightly raced and a duel winner. This is her first outing against the Boys and the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained mare is the only female in the line-up. Jockey Jamie Bargary takes off a valuable 7lbs and that could easily be the key factor here. Any Market support for Taj Badalanddabad should be noted unexposed and off a light weight he represents a shrewd stable. Another who has shown a liking for the track but does need to put his latest effort behind him.
A Doll In Milan (E/W)
Back to over to Sandown for the 14:25. A two mile four and a half furlong novices’ chase. The betting suggests it will be between the Phillip Hobbs trained Champagne West and Irish Saint for Paul Nicholls. With the latter getting my vote here. Champagne West finished second last time behind the highly rated Ptit Zig, who now looks to have a major chance in whichever of the festival races he contends. Champagne west lost nothing in defeat that day although Paul Nicholls should know where he stands in relation to Irish Saints chances through that run. Irish Saint had been in great form towards the end of last year and looked a real talent when destroying rivals last time out. He could have a lot more to give and is our third pick of the afternoon. Any under par performance from the principles will open the door for Splash Of Ginge and under Ryan Hatch should not be discounted.
Irish Saint (WIN)
14:40 Ffos Las
We return across the welsh border for the 14:40 at Ffos Lass for the West Welsh National a Class 2 Handicap chase ran over three miles four furlongs. Venetia Williams saddles three here and with the ground forecast as heavy it would be no surprise to see Gorgehous Lliege take the spoils here. Sent of favourite for the Sussex National he ran well finishing a close fourth. Relatively unexposed over these marathon trips he gets in here at the foot of the weights and with the Jockey able to claim 3lbs allowance that will only enhance his chances he is the fourth pick of the afternoon. With the only disappointing recent run being easily excused, he could well be worth backing at the early odds as it’s not hard to see the money coming for him throughout the afternoon and in my opinion could be favourite come race time. Top Weighted Firebird Flyer ran second in this race last year and with the stable utilising 7lb claimer for the second time, the first being when victorious last time at Ludlow, that looked to familiarise him with the horse and to me makes their intentions of trying to go one better than in 2014. He should not be far away and is a real danger to the selection. Smiles For Miles represents top connections. The blinkers have worked wonders resulting in 3 wins from the last 4 runs. He is however up again in the weights and has to prove his stamina over this extra distance.
Gorgehous Lliege (E/W)
Its Back to Sandown for the 15:00 a Handicap Hurdle ran over two miles six furlongs. Polamco is the one they all have to beat. Winner of both his last two starts the Harry Fry trained 6 year old looks to continue the progress he showed last year. He should be able to cope with the rise in the weights and with such a progressive profile it is hard to look past him here. Harry Fry places his horses to great effect and with plenty of evidence the trip suits he is a worthy favourite. Mr Grey could go well for each way backers here. Very lightly raced he comes here off the back of two good efforts and although he looked slightly laboured when winning two starts ago his last run was good enough to see him grab a place here. Handsupfordetroit tried to steal the race last time at Chepstow when attempting to slip the field, he kicked clear but seemed to get lost in front and was just reeled in and if similar tactics are adopted over this shorter trip he could cause an upset. Robert Williams claims a valuable 5lbs and at a decent price could hold on.
For the penultimate live race we head north to Wetherby for the 15:20, the Towton Novice chase ran over three miles one furlong. Kaki De La Pree boasts the best form on offer here and is clear bookies favourite. He has had two previous starts over fences both occasions being sent off favourite last time at Newbury finishing third 2 ½ lengths behind the winner. he should give his running once again and should not be out of the money but at likely short odds it may pay to look elsewhere. Ned Stark is the pick here. Not exactly a big price but likely big enough to play each way. Clearly biting off more than he could chew last time he returns to a more realistic level. He has shown pointing form that would indicate the trip is, as breeding suggests, well within his capabilities. Prior to the last run he was 2-2 over fences and although this will be harder than those victories he should be able to fend of his rivals. Straidnahanna could make a bold bid from the front and at a decent price may not be easily headed.
Ned Stark (E/W)
Our final live race of the afternoon sees us return to Sandown for the 15:35. A Class two Handicap Chase The final selection is the Nicky Henderson trained Hadrian’s Approach. A disappointing reappearance can be forgiven and if able to return to the form that saw him win a better race than this here in April last year. Previous to that win he was steadily improving throughout 2013 and ran to his mark on several occasions. Jockey Barry Geraghty knows him well and has been on board for all his wins under rules. The stable have an excellent record at the course and he should have no trouble finishing in the money. There could be more to come from Ardkilly Witness. Assisted with a tongue tie when winning last time he battled on well to get his head in front. He could easily go on from that run and if the market speaks in his favour he could well cause an upset. Just A Par adds a hood to the blinkers and looks a solid each way prospect. He is dropping to a tempting mark but will probably find one or two too good.
Hadrian’s Approach (E/W)