For this Saturdays weekender we head to Newbury and the first selection runs in the first race at 13:25, a two mile, half furlong Novices Hurdle.
The Nicky Henderson trained Hassle is the selection here, ridden by Barry Geraghty. His First attempt at hurdles finished with a fair fourth with the winner that day, a stablemate, winning a better contest since Hassle should be able to improve from that effort and can gain his first win over obstacles. He has flat form at around this trip and with a race that looks to have little strength he should be able to see off his rivals here.
Centurius is a big danger if able to make the switch to hurdling. He has good form on the flat and if the distance doesn’t take its toll he could easily take advantage of any mistakes from the selection.
If Rock of Ages can get his act together he could make the frame at a decent price.
For the second selection we have to wait until after the live television action on channel 4 for the 16:20. A class 2 Nation hunt Flat race.
Aliandy lines up here for trainer Kim Bailey, The booking of Tony McCoy is bound to appeal with a fantastic strike rate for the stable. This event looks to be one where the newcomers will have most say and Aliandy looks to be a real likely type in this field. That said, and despite the unarguable record of this combination another newcomer appeals more.
That debutant is the Nicky Henderson trained Cultivator. The yard has a great record in this type of race and won this contest 12 months ago. Cultivator has the assistance of Barry Geraghty who has a 23% strike rate at the course rising to 32% in this type of event. With those stats in his favour Cultivator is the second selection.
Criq Rock is another with a trainer who has a good record in bumpers and should make the frame.
The final race on the card, a class 3 handicap chase provides the last selection.
Village Vic heads the betting her for trainer Phillip Hobbs and Jockey Richard Johnson.
Up 5lb for winning last time over course and distance he looks to have a great chance once again. Making all for that victory he was given an easy time up front and rewarded backers of the 5/4 favourite that day. Richard Johnson will be looking forward more than most to the retirement of his chief rival Tony McCoy. But for the time being may have to again settle for finishing second here.
Cernunnos lines up here under Tony McCoy and Tom George is certainly hoping the French import can make his British debut a winning one. In the colours of JP McManus he certainly hasn’t been recruited on a whim. Previously a winner both over hurdles and fences the five year old gelding will not be lacking in ability. With such respected connections and with the assistance of a jockey who can only be described as a phenomenon he looks to be well placed in this field.