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Winter Carnival – Saturday

There's days when I look forward to working on track and days I don't. Despite the excellent fayre on offer at Newbury today, it'll all be about trying to keep relatively warm. The layers will be on.

Bangor has already bitten the dust, with Storm Arwyn causing damage at the track. Let's hope that's the only casualty today.

Here's my thoughts on Saturday's racing.

1.15 Newbury

Two against the field for me here.


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Kalooki looks an obvious one, having dotted up over C&D on his seasonal debut here last yearand then ran to a similar level when third in the novices chase on this card twelve months ago. He lost his form after that, albeit highly tried, but refound it when brought back here on his final start of last year, going down fighting when beaten a head by Espoir De Teillee. He still looks on a fair mark to begin this season on, and given his record fresh, he surely won’t be left short on his seasonal debut today.

Ofalltheginjoints, for all that he’s won at 3m and tried over further, might find this an ideal trip and he shaped perfectly well in the Badger Beer on his comeback, weakening from two out and looking in need of the run. He seemed to respond positively to the application of blinkers there and off what looks a very low-looking mark these days, he’ll surely pop up sooner rather than later.

3.00 Newbury

I mean, this looks like one of the most competitive Hennessy/Ladbroke Trophies I’ve ever seen. You could have six picks and not get one in the frame. It’s that open, in my opinion.

The weather could yet play a part. If it rains/snows Friday on top of watered ground, it could yet turn it a lot softer than we think it might be, and that would count against a few of these, not least last year’s winner, Cloth Cap. Regardless, this is going to be run at a very strong pace, with Cloth Cap, Remastered, Eklat De Rire and quite probably One More Fleurie all pushing it along.

If it turns into a proper slog, there’s two I want onside. Fortescue has been a bit of a money machine since going over fences, winning five of his ten chase starts, and I’ve always thought there’s a big staying chase in him. Whether he’s got the class for this remains to be seen, but he stays well when there’s some cut in the ground, and came back from his summer break to run well when third at Kelso, looking like the run would do him good. The more rain, the better his chance.

Cloudy Glen has often gone well after a long absence (twice a winner after 200+day absences) and absolutely thrashed them when winning the Southern National in heavy ground last year, showing that stamina was his long suit. He’s now on the same mark as when second in the Kim Muir, another excellent effort and one that showed he can go well in big-field handicaps and with the Venetia Williams yard going much better, he could go well. A wind operation since last being seen is a positive (I have her 7-30 past five seasons, with another eight placed) and he could go well.

The Tizzard pair of Mister Malarky and Copperhead are both of some interest off their respective marks. The former is hard to predict but is useful on his day, and looks on a fair mark. There was just enough in his run behind Larry at Ascot to think he’s still got something to offer, but he has had two tries in the race and hasn’t performed at his best either time, an unseat last year hardly a plus to his chances. Copperhead is very risky as he could be gone at the game, but you do at least have the excuse of the Tizzard horses being all wrong last year, and he’s now just 3lb higher than the mark he was off when taking the Reynoldstown to pieces back in 2020. I know that’s not a handicap, but it shows how well treated he is here if you’re the forgiving type.

The Irish will probably finish 1-2-3 now I’ve said all this. The case for Munster National winner Ontheropes is very easy to see, and has a clear chance here, but quotes of 4-1 don’t do a lot for me.

3.35 Newbury

Hard to see why the sound-jumping Numitor is the price he is here. Yes, this is tougher than the races he’s been winning but his jumping is superb, a key point at Newbury where you can get into a rhythm and prove hard to catch, and he handles most ground. No better man than Tom Scudamore on one from the front when you want an attacking ride and he looks certain to give you a good spin for your money.

2.05 Newcastle

If Friday’s rain gets in here it’ll be against a few of these, but The Ferry Master doesn’t mind a bit of cut and having sailed over these fences when winning the novice chase on the card last year, has no problem with conditions. Fourth in the Scottish National last year, and that on just his fifth chase start, he’s got more to come this year and will be a major player in all the big staying chases later in the season. He’ll strip fitter for his first outing at Kelso and ought to be hard to beat here.

3.15 Newcastle

Epatante is still a quality horse, but is short enough for a horse that’s clearly reached her ceiling and the handicapper thinks is 8lb worse than she was this time last year. Even allowing for the 7lb mares allowance, it isn’t hard to think she’s vulnerable here. Silver Streak showed that she’s beatable on an off day when winning the Christmas Hurdle last year, and it’s hard to know how wound up she will be here too.

Her, Sceau Royal and Silver Streak (and Not So Sleepy, to a lesser extent) all share the same formlines, and can beat each other, but Mormiral might be better than the lot of them this year.

One of the best looking horses I saw last year, with a classical head to him, he did nothing but improve on each start and his defeat of Adagio at Aintree reads all the better after that one’s run in the Greatwood a couple of weeks ago. There’s surely more to come from him this season and he can kick a Champion Hurdle campaign off with a win here.

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Today's selection – Fortescue (e/w extra places) 3.00 Newbury

Good luck with all your bets today,

David.

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