First day of the Newbury Winter Festival, or something, and there's some competitive fare on offer. Four races on terrestrial TV to have a look at, and it sees the return of last season's Stayers Hurdle winner Paisley Park. My thoughts on the main piece today.
I'm hoping to get a video up tonight – I'll be relying on hotel wifi as I'll be in Newbury – but I'm more than hopeful!
Strictly speaking, Gala Ball can’t beat San Benedeto at the weights on their form here in March, but that was Gala Ball’s first start for two years and in the circumstances it was an excellent effort. His record at Newbury now reads 2221, he goes well fresh and the soft ground is ideal. The yard are still firing the winners in, and he looks sure to run a decent race.
Kalashnikov is the class act of this field but 11-12 is plenty of weight to hump around in what promises to be quite testing ground. Azzerti might have been more interesting on better ground, Go Long could go better after his first run of the season at Wetherby but idd there's a saver to be had, it'll have to be on The Bay Birch at a big price. Forget Rasen last time – 3m in unraceable ground is easily forgivable anyway – as her run at Chepstow the time before was a career best. It's probable the handicapper has her now but all the same, she can't be the price she is now she's back at her right trip.
Champ did the job well enough on his chase debut here earlier in the month but Black Op was just as impressive, if not more so, when thrashing the useful Mr Antolini at Stratford, looking like he was getting back to his classy best. It’s to be remembered how he gave Samcro a race at Cheltenham and then beat Lostintranslation as a novice hurdler, so has all the class needed for this, and if he jumps as well here, he’ll take some passing.
3.00 Newbury – Long Distance Hurdle
All last year I was waiting for the Paisley Park bubble to burst but it never did, and to his credit, he won the big one with a bit in hand. Looking at today's opposition, you'd be hard pushed to say that either Unowhatimeanharry or the evergreen Thistlecrack are going to be good enough to beat him if he runs his race, and surely Beet Goggles will need it after such a long absence. That leaves The World's End, who confounded everyone by acting perfectly well on soft ground at Wetherby when winning their Grade 2 event earlier in the month. That still leaves him with a stone to find on bare form but he's probably the only one that could beat Paisley Park, given he's race fit.
One For The Team was well backed to score at Worcester on his latest start but just found The Big Shark too good form him, form that has been franked this week. He had some useful types in behind him that day too, and although the handicapper has already reacted with a 5lb rise for that, he remains unexposed and capable of better again.
Today's selection – One For The Team 3.35 Newbury
Good luck with all your bets today,