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Look ahead to the weekend

Evening all,

Inside today’s main piece I continue my look ahead to the weekend’s big race action.  Yesterday I looked at the Dublin Racing Festival. Today I switch my attention to the racing this side of the Irish Sea and two races at Sandown, and one apiece at Wetherby and Musselburgh.

Looking ahead to the weekend

I’m going to be focusing most of my betting at Leopardstown this weekend. However, I will no doubt be looking for some bets in the eight ITV races.

For anyone looking to have an ante post bet on Saturday’s races a note of caution. There seem a fair number of doubly entered horses so unless you know for definite a horse’s plans, I don’t, the prudent approach would be leave them alone until you have seen final declarations.

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Weather watch

At this time of the year it’s always wise to keep an eye on the weather. The fairly mild, dry spell of weather is going to continue. There are spits and spots forecast for Leopardstown and Musselburgh but I suspect the rain won’t amount to much.  There doesn’t seem to be any precipitation forecast for Sandown and Wetherby.

At the time of writing. Sandown is soft, good to soft on the hurdles track and good to soft, soft in places on the chase course. If the weather forecast is correct its going to be good to soft at worst at Sandown.

In West Yorkshire its dry, mild, and very breezy. The going at Wetherby is being described as soft, good to soft in places. Like Sandown, I suspect there will be more good than soft in the going description due to a drying breeze.


The Sandown feature is the Grade 1 Virgin Bet Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase (2.20).  As is the case with these races just seven were left in the race at Monday’s final confirmation stage. The Gordon Elliott trained Gerri Colombe heads the ante post betting. This looks his likely target although he has another entry in Leopardstown on Sunday. I think he’ll prove the best of these over fences albeit over 3m. The drying ground over 2m 4f is a concern for me on Saturday.

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Thunder Rock won his first two starts but was put in his place by The Real Whacker in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last time. Sandown might suit him better than Cheltenham as will better ground and if he jumps better than last time is a major player. He does have an entry in the Towton Novices’ Chase over 3m at Wetherby.

Nicky Henderson is going through a quiet spell 1-16 (6%) in the past 14-days has two entries in last time out winners Balco Coastal & Bold Endeavour. It’s a race the trainer has won four times since 2013.

2:55 – Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle (Premier Handicap)

Charles Byrnes could bring over Grozni for this 2m 7 ½ f handicap. However, he also hold an entry in a 3m handicap hurdle at Leopardstown on Saturday. The same applies to Gordon Elliott’s Maxxum. I suspect neither will come over but at least connections know there mark’s from the British handicapper.  

Besides the two Irish horses nine of the 28 left in at Monday’s final confirmation are doubly entered which makes the race a betting minefield until you know the final line-up.

Flight Deck, an improved winner at Chepstow is the bookies ante post favourite.  The 9-year-old has solid claims of backing up. Green Book was well beaten by Flight Deck last time. However, that was his seasonal reappearance, and he did win this race last year off 4lb lower.

Lightly raced 8-year-old Steller Magic was back to form when a ¾-length 2nd of 11 to Steal A March in handicap at Wincanton on Boxing Day. Up 4lb but remains unexposed over around 3m and there’s a race in him off his present mark. Trainer Phillip Hobbs won this in 2016.

At the time of writing, I haven’t had a swing at the race. However, Green Book, 14/1 with Paddy Power and Steller Magic 12/1 with the same firm are appealing as they will be shorter come final declarations.

There are a couple on handicap chases that are live on ITV. I don’t have the time to look at them today but could revisit them in Saturday’s column.


Like the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase just seven were left in the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase (2:40).  Of the seven. Thunder Rock is more likely to go to Sandown.  Gold Cup Bailly’s was due to run at Ayr on Wednesday. And Bellatrixsa has an entry for a mares handicap chase at Catterick on Friday.

Ballygrifincottage (4/6) is the ante post favourite. The 8-year-old made an impressive debut over fences at Haydock in November and looks a nice staying chase prospect. He's my idea of the winner.

Nicky Henderson has two entries in City Chief and Mister Coffey. I doubt both will run. Of the pair I like the first named more as he’s open to more improvement on just his third start over the larger obstacles.

One likely runner is Irish challenger O’Toole. The 7-year-old looked a nice chasing prospect when winning a Newcastle handicap on his debut over fences last month.  He can do better in the sphere and couldn’t be ruled out.


The ITV cameras are covering three races from day one of Scottish Cheltenham Trials Weekend. The best of them looks to be the 3m 7 ½ f Edinburgh National.

2:03 – Edinburgh National Handicap Chase

I will likely look at the Musselburgh races in more detail in Saturday’s column. But here are some thoughts on the race.

Eighteen were left in the race on Mondaybut given the drying weather forecast I suspect we’ll see the race cut up Truckers Lodge has dropped down to a good mark. Ok, he might prefer softer ground but the 10/1 available with Coral & Ladbrokes looks a bit big to me.

Sandy Thomson saddled the winner of this in 2018 and he left three in the race on Monday. Flower Of Scotland who won the Borders National at Kelso last time and is unexposed over the trip. Doyen Breed has some useful novice chase form from last season that would give him a chance. The Ferry Master is still running below his best form which had seen him finish 4th  in the 2021 Scottish Grand National but he’s becoming well handicapped, and he shaped better here last time.

Ben Pauling seems likely bring up Slipaway who won the Southern National at Fontwell on his seasonal return. He’s now 7lb higher but is going the right way and remains unexposed over marathon trips. He’s vying favouritism in the ante post betting, and I think he’ll be clear favourite if he rocks up here.

Captain Cattistock is a thorough stayer. He won this race last year but is 7lb higher and could be vulnerable to better handicapped rivals this time around.

Thursday racing

Wincanton & Fakenham provide the jumps action this afternoon and there are all-cards at Southwell in the afternoon and Chelmsford this evening.

Most of the ones I fancy today are short prices with only two being 4/1 plus at the time of writing.  The race of the day is the Class 3 Dick Hunt ‘Wigmore' Handicap Chase at Wincanton. And its that race than comes under the microscope.


3:00 – Certainly Red a winner over C&D two starts before following up at Sandown last month. He’s up 8lb but is going the right way and has a great chance of following up here. He was available at 4/1 in the early bird betting which I doubt will be available when you’re reading this.

Certainly Red does face several interesting rivals. Previous C&D winner Golden Sovereign returned from a near 22 month absence with an encouraging 3 ¾ lengths 3rd of 11 over C&D last time. He should be sharper today and is in the mix.

Given the form of the Paul Nicholls yard you must respect Southfield Harvest. The 9-year-old was pulled up at Fontwell on his return from a long absence but was better when a 11 lengths 4th of 10 to Farinet at Chepstow last time.

Neon Moon shaped with promise on his chase debut at Exeter but ran poorly back there 16-days later. A winner here over hurdles last spring he’s better than he was able to show last time and returns from wind surgery.

Tallow For Coal looked an improving handicap chaser when winning at Lingfield on seasonal return but ran poorly when pulling up at Newbury last time. Not out of it if reproducing his Lingfield performance. Champagne Court pulled up in the same race but he’s on a fair mark and will like the drying ground.

Putdecashonthedash has failed to complete on both this season’s starts but he’s just 2lb above his last winning mark and being a previous C&D winner, can’t be discounted. Albeit he’s 0-7, 0 places above Class 4.


4:25 – Small Bad Bob is now 7lb below his last winning mark and the 8-year-old was back on the right track when an 8 ¾ length 3rd of 15 over C&D last month. This is a slight ease in class, and he’s suited to good to soft ground.  Yard had a winner at Plumpton on Monday which is another positive.

Thursday selection:


4:25 –  Small Bad Bob – 7/1 @ Bet365.

Good luck with your Thursday bets.


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