A stellar weekend of racing begins on Friday. It’s the first ever Winter Million Festival Weekend at Lingfield. The feature race is the 2m7f Winter Million Hurdle (2.25). Four of the races are being covered by ITV. The ITV cameras are also covering four races from Market Rasen, including the Listed Mares’ bumper (2:40) which last season was won Eileendover.
It gets even better on Saturday. Fingers crossed it will be Shishkin v Energumene in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase (3:35). Up at Haydock there are four Grade 2 races including the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase (2.35) and The New One Unibet Hurdle (2.00). There’s also a good all-weather card at Lingfield with a new race the Winter Oaks (3.40) a handicap, with £100,000 guaranteed prize money, the highlight of seven race card. ITV are covering the best of the action from Ascot and Haydock on a seven-race programme.
On Sunday its back to Lingfield for the final day of the Winter Million Festival. The highlights of seven race card look to be the Fleur De Lys Chase (3:00) which has £150,000 guaranteed prize money and the Surrey National (3:35). Once again ITV will be covering five races from the Surrey track.
Inside today’s main piece. I look ahead to Saturday’s big races the Clarence House Chase and the Peter Marsh Chase. Plus, there’s a selection from today’s Newbury card.
Something For The Weekend
As I mentioned yesterday. Looking ahead to the Saturday’s big races isn’t that easy given you have plenty of horses who are doubly declared.
Clarence House Chase
The going at Ascot is currently soft but little rain is forecast so it’s not likely to best as testing as it was 12 months ago.
Just the five have been declared for the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase. However, this isn’t one of the races where you have worry about double declarations. Neither do you have to be concerned about the field size. Especially should Shishkin and Energumene take their place in the line-up. Add in the likes of last year’s winner First Flow and the potentially improving Hitman and we should see the race of the season so far.
I don’t need to tell you about Shishkin was the best two-mile novice chaser last season and is unbeaten on his six starts since going chasing. He made an impressive return to action when winning the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas.
Energumene is another who doesn’t need much of an introduction. He had to miss last season’s Arkle Chase which was won by Shishkin due to injury. However, he did win the Grade 1 Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival. The 8-year-old put in an impressive jumping performance when winning the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork last month.
First Flow made a successful step up to 2m 4f to win the Grade 2 Peterborough Chae at Huntingdon on his seasonal return. Although he won on good ground at Huntingdon. Prior to that his best form had come on soft or heavy ground. His jumping will really be tested here and this year’s renewal is much better than the race he won 12 months ago.
Hitman has 2lb to find with First Flow on Official Ratings but he’s open to more improvement. Runner-up to Eldorado Allan in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter on his seasonal return. He improved again when occupying the same position behind stablemate Greaneteen in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek at Sandown. He’s only a 6-year-old and drying ground wouldn’t inconvenience him either
Amoola Gold is a useful two-mile handicapper and his from figures over C&D are 1212. He’ll be held up but he’s the outsider of the five and doesn’t have any realistic chance of winning in ratings.
Verdict: The drying ground makes Shishkin a worthy favourite but the 5/2 available with Bet365 makes Energumene a bit of value.
Peter Marsh Chase
The feature race at Haydock on Saturday is the Grade 2 Peter Marsh Handicap Chase. It’s a limited handicap which means the lowest weighted horse will have to carry 10-4. Monday’s confirmation stage suggested we could see a classy line up.
Another Royal Win?
Top-weight and last year’s winner Royal Pagaille has 7lb more to carry than 12 months ago. However, he likes the track and will relish the heavy to soft ground. The 8-year-old finished runner-up to A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase on his only start this season. It was only good to soft that day and he’s much better in the mud.
Should Royal Pagaille run it would mean nine of the 17 declared runners would be running out of the handicap.
Empire Steel finished runner-up over C&D on his seasonal return. He was in the process of running a big race in the Rowland Meyrick Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day when falling four out. I think if he had stood up that day, he would have won that day. He’s only had six starts over fences and is open to further improvement.
Enqarde found plenty for pressure two out to hold off Remastered in the Tommy Whittle Chase over C&D last time. The track suits, he goes well in the mud and must be a big contender despite being out of the weights if Royal Pagaille runs.
Remastered who was going strongly when falling in the Ladbroke Trophy. He had been expected to make amends for that mishap in the Tommy Whittle last time. However, he found the concession of 18lb to the improving Enqarde to much on the day.
Course specialist Bristol De Mai would be an attractive each way proposition at 14/1 (bet365) but probably won’t run.
Lord Du Mesnil’s form figures at Haydock are 1121. Last season’s Grand National Trial winner here. He had race when runner-up in the Rowland Meyrick last time and maybe be better over further in this company.
Newbury and Plumpton provide the jumps action this afternoon. Plus, there are all-weather cards at Dundalk and Southwell.
3:30 – Gran Luna, Voice of Calm and Meganwere first second and third in a handicap hurdle over C&D last month.
Gran Luna was making it 3-3 at Newbury when successful that day and has been raised just 2lb.
Voice Of Calm gets 1lb for the head she was beaten and today’s drying ground will suit her better than soft last time.
Megan had gone into the tracker after promising seasonal return at Chepstow. The 5-year-old was travelling better than most when falling three out that day. She also was a very respectable 6 ¾ length 4th of 14 to Soaring Glory in a strong race at Ascot. Bounced back from a poor run at Fakenham when 4 lengths behind Grand Luna here last time. Get’s 4lb from the winner today and her yard won this race 12 months ago.
Good luck with your Wednesday bets,