Good morning all,
Inside today’s main piece, I have three for the tracker. Plus, I have had a look at three races from this afternoon's Doncaster fixture. However, I begin with the road to reopening racecourses.
On Monday Boris Johnson unveiled England’s roadmap out of lockdown. Now racecourses and high street bookmakers in England, at least, have a clear set of dates to work with.
Non-essential retail, which for most of the Covid19 crisis, has included betting shops is set to return on April 12th. Provided this stage is passed without a significant spike in hospitalisations, the return of spectators to sports grounds, including racecourses is set for May 17th, with up to 4,000 or 50 per cent of capacity (whichever is lower) in attendance. This means that the Epsom Derby meeting will see some sort of crowd as will Royal Ascot. The final stage out of lockdown has been penciled in for June 21st when hopefully all restrictions on crowd sizes at sporting venues will be lifted.
My hunch is the timetable will be subject to the odd delay especially the final stage. However, at least there is now a route out of lockdown. And for that at least we should be grateful.
Sadly, for high street bookmakers they won’t be open for either the Cheltenham Festival or the Grand National. Ironically the National is due to take place on the 10th April, just two days before the opening of non-essential retail.
This raises the intriguing possibility that the Grand National Festival could be postponed for a week. I doubt it will happen but as you can imagine the bookies are very keen on the idea and given racing finances surely it must come into serious consideration given the uniqueness of the situation.
Three for the tracker
This week’s eyecatchers all ran over hurdles at the weekend. The first travelled through his Ascot race like a well handicapped horse. The second hinted there’s better to come. And the third could land a decent pot over fences this spring.
Gladiateur Allen – Jane Williams
Gladiateur Allen travelled through Ascot’s 2m 3 ½ f handicap hurdle like the best horse in the race. A decisive winner, over slightly further, at the venue a month earlier. He looked to be going better than most coming to three out but he had probably gone too powerfully and those exertions took their toll in the final stages.
The 5-year-old still looked inexperienced on Saturday and he's started in handicap company on a good mark. There should be plenty more to come and he should keep improving with racing.
Champagne Platinum – Nicky Henderson
Champagne Platinum didn’t look a natural on his four starts over fences last season. Not surprisingly then that connections decided to return to hurdles this season and the 7-year-old ran with encouragement when 3rd of 12 at Newbury on his seasonal return in November. Off since that run, he returned to action in the Pertemps Qualifier at Haydock on Saturday.
Carrying top-weight of 11-12, it was a good effort in finishing runner-up to Bushey Park. Travelling better than most turning into the straight. He got slightly outpaced when the leader went for home three out but stayed on nicely enough. I think this run will bring him on a bundle and he’s now qualified for the final.
Kitty’s Light – Christian Williams
Kitty’s Light is bred to be a flat horse and compared to many of his peers in the jumping sphere he’s tiny. However, the 5-year-old proved last year that he’s a useful chaser in the making when winning three of his first four starts over the larger obstacles with all three of those success’s came on good or good to firm ground. The further he’s gone the better he looks, as he showed when staying on strongly to finish 3rd of 13 in the Badger Beers Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton in November.
He’s returned from a short break with a couple of good efforts in “Jumpers bumpers” and shaped with arguably even promise on his return to hurdling when 7th of 16 at Newbury on Sunday.
Rated 135 over fences. He's unexposed over staying trips and I think there’s a decent handicap pot in him this spring and summer. He could even be a live Scottish Grand National or a Sandown Bet365 Gold Cup contender on his favoured sound surface.
In Thursday's column. I will be looking ahead to some of the weekend’s big race action at Kempton and Newcastle. And next week, I will be moving into Cheltenham mode so you will be able to read my thoughts on a few topics pertaining to next months Festival.
A decent Doncaster card this afternoon with the highlight being a Veterans’ Chase Series Qualifier. There’s also a jumps card at Ludlow and all-weather action from Southwell and Kempton. Sadly for Irish racing fans this afternoon's Punchestown meeting has been abandoned.
The going is good to soft, soft in places at the track but it was dry on Tuesday with a strong wind and is set to be dry today. I have looked at three races on the Doncaster card.
14:25 – Virgin Bet Novices' Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3) – 3m
Late Legend has had a busy season and has been well placed to win five of his nine starts. Won over C&D last time, despite jumping to his right and although he’s been raised 8lb for his last win he might not have stopped improving.
He's does face a few unexposed types making their handicap chase debuts.
Eva’s Oscar has had three starts over fences. He’s yet to test the judge but has shown enough to think he will be suited by the step into handicap company and can go close if jumping better than on his last two starts.
Glenduff a winner of a Carlisle novice hurdle (good to soft) last season is one of the least exposed horses in the field. He returned to action from an 11-month absence when well beaten 5th of 6 on his chase debut at Musselburgh 18-days ago. The drying ground will suit the 7-year-old as should this more galloping track.
3:30 – Virgin Bet Veterans' Handicap Chase (Leg 2 Of The Veterans' Chase Series) (Class 2) – 3m
Fagan bounced back to form, under top-weight when winning at Newbury (heavy) 38-days ago. Up 10lb for that success. However, with his confidence boosted he’s capable of another big run. Although Jockey Kielan Woods opts for Ami Desbois today.
Ami Desbois is another coming into the race in good form. He returned from 343-day absence to finish 2nd of 11 behind Double Shuffle at Kempton last month. Got a good positive ride that day and might well have held on to win but for a mistake at the last. Nudged up 4lb but he deserves to win a race like this. However, his losing run does go back to December 2017.
Guitar Pete has been a grand servant to connections over the years. He was steadily improving his position when falling four out in the above Kempton race. It was a heavy fall though and his stamina for 3m has still to be proven but the drying ground will suit the 11-year-old.
Rocky’s Treasure, a three-time winner at Doncaster, including two over C&D. The latest of those wins came two starts back when holding off the late challenge of Give Me A Copper. Probably resented the soft ground when pulling up in the Sky Bet Chase here last month. The first-time visor replaces the cheekpieces and the better ground is a positive. More than capable of winning this, if he's on a going day.
4:05 – Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier For The Challenger Stayers Hurdle Series Final) (Class 3) – 3m ½ f
The lightly raced Big Bresil is sure to be popular with punters after an excellent second on last months handicap debut. First start on going better than soft but if he handles the drying ground and stays 3m he’s got a good chance.
Ashfield Paddy seemed happier returned to hurdles when 3rd of 7 to Brinkley at Wincanton 34-days ago. A winner over 2m 7f at Exeter 12 months ago. He should get today’s slightly longer trip and Kevin Brogan takes off a handy 5lb. Which means he’s just 1lb above his last winning mark.
Supakalanistic a winner over 3m at Kempton last November, off 7lb lower. Hes been in good form in “Jumpers bumper’s” of late, winning at Lingfield last month. A solid dual-purpose horse who wins his share of races. The 8-year-old might be vulnerable to any better handicapped rivals in the field but the better the ground, the better his chance.
3:30 – Ami Desbois – 100/30 @ Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook
Good luck with your Wednesday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk