Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes marks your card ahead of this afternoon’s racing at Newbury and Newcastle
1.50 Newbury – ANNSAM
Nicky Henderson’s Lecale’s Article will be popular for this one, as he looked a top prospect when winning here last December. But he was well below expectations in two starts since, and makes his handicap debut here.
A key piece of form for this race comes from Kempton three weeks ago where Calva D’Auge beat ANNSAM by just over two lengths. With adjusted weights and different claims from jockeys, Annsam is now 10lbs better off and should settle better in a bigger field with a stronger pace.
Evan Williams and his daughter Isobel teamed up for a big winner at Haydock last Saturday and at around 12/1 he looks too big, especially as an each-way prospect, especially with Calva D’Auge who is half of that price.
2.05 Newcastle – THE FERRY MASTER
The Rehearsal Chase looks set to be a true test with confirmed pace-setters Glen Forsa and Dingo Dollar in the line-up.
The former has been dropped a pound for an eye-catching return at Ascot, but with wind forecasted around the country this afternoon, front-runners may find it tough to make all. Stamina could come into play, and plenty have these have it.
Sam’s Adventure won an Eider but would prefer softer ground, while Notachance has something to prove after failing to complete the last twice – although he did win a Warwick Classic Chase.
THE FERRY MASTER travelled like the winner for a long way on his comeback over nearly four miles at Musselburgh before just getting tired under a big weight in the final quarter mile. With that run under his belt and a very low weight of just 10-0 here, last year’s Scottish National fourth can get back to winning ways. Ryan Mania cannot do the weight, hence why he rides stablemate Dingo Dollar, so Craig Nichol gets aboard.
3.00 Newbury – EKLAT DE RIRE & POTTERMAN
With very generous each-way terms on offer, I fancy a couple in the Ladbrokes Trophy.
First up is EKLAT DE RIRE, who I am convinced is a high-class chaser in the making and has been campaigned like one. His only defeat over fences was when unseating at the top of the hill in the Brown Advisory (RSA) at the Festival behind Monkfish. Prior to that he beat two useful yardsticks on chasing debut, before landing a Grade 3 at Nass – ahead of a pair of Graded quality horses in Pencilfulloflead and Escaria Ten, who himself was placed third in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham.
He made his seasonal reappearance at Wexford in a race previously won by Gold Cup hero Minella Indo, and we saw what Henry De Bromhead’s staying chasers can do with A Plus Tard’s Haydock romp seven days ago.
Granted, he has 11-8 to carry here and only Denman and Trablogan have carried more weight to victory this century. Even Bob’s Worth and Many Clouds only had 11-6 in their winning years, but it is just the fifth start over fences for EKLAT DE RIRE and I expect we will be seeing him in Grade 1 company again in the spring festivals.
Elsewhere, Demachine and Remastered are closely matched on their Reynoldstown Chase form from February at Ascot, with the former receiving a 4lb pull for a four-length defeat – while Ontheropes makes it a strong Irish challenge after his easy win in the Munster National, for which the British handicapper hit him with a 12lb rise.
Fiddlerontheroof won well at Carlisle and was second to Monkfish at Cheltenham when the yard wasn’t firing. He too is a major player, while last year’s victor Cloth Cap bids to join immortal greats such as Denman, Arkle and Mandarin as a dual winner. The fact it’s a small but select list shows how difficult his task is off an 18lb higher perch.
For those looking at one at a tasty price, Cloudy Glen – in the same colours as Cloth Cap of the late Trevor Hemmings – could go well for Venetia Williams. He was second in the Kim Muir at the Festival, has had a wind operation over the summer and has won two of his three seasonal debuts.
But the other selection goes to POTTERMAN.
The race had yet to really begin when he unseated Tom Cannon last year as they set out on the final circuit. He comes here off an identical preparation after finishing second at Wincanton, and his 6lb higher mark is justified after winning the old Whitbread Gold Cup at Sandown in April.
That was a somewhat fortunate success achieved in the steward’s room when Enrilo was first past the post but badly hampered the unfortunate Kitty’s Light. He is better off at the weights with both of those re-opposing rivals and will still be galloping wen plenty have cried enough.
3.15 Newcastle– SCEAU ROYAL
Maybe this is the romantic in me, but I would love to see SCEAU ROYAL win this afternoon – and I’ll be backing him to do so.
On last year’s run in this contest he has three lengths to find with Epatante, who was making her seasonal debut with Sceau Royal already match fit from two previous runs. It is a carbon copy this year, with the mare once again receiving 7lbs. However, last year’s race was messy once Not So Sleepy departed early and carried out Silver Streak, leaving Sceau Royal out in front.
Without any dramas this year he will have a pace to aim at and was only undone in the final half furlong last year. We know the way the race plays out will also be to Epatante’s strength, but official figures have her 5lbs lower this year after events not going to plan post-Fighting Fifth – while Sceau Royal, despite being on the same mark, is seemingly in rude health once again, if not better than ever.
Monmiral is an obvious danger with his form looking stronger by the week. He is in the big boys’ league though now, and has a few pounds to find on the figures (which can easily be done considering how lightly-raced he is). However, connections would have preferred to go to Newbury until realising he wasn’t qualified for that race.
3.35 Newbury– FRERO BANBOU
FRERO BANBOU ran a strange race at Ascot a month ago. Having been well-backed into favouritism, he was prominent early before totally losing his position going away from the stands. He looked like getting back into contention on the run-in from Swinley Bottom but his run then petered out when turning for home and he ended up a well-beaten fourth.
There are signs that better can be expected here though. That was his seasonal debut, and he certainly showed ability to try to get back into the race – and the Venetia Williams yard is in much better form now too. He has been dropped 2lbs, and the fact he was supported suggests much better was expected. The winner, Amoola Gold, went very close off a career high mark last week too.
He has a few lengths to find on Grey Diamond on that effort, but Sam Thomas’s horses have been going well on their seasonal debuts and he doesn’t make much appeal at around 5/1 second time out.
Paul Nicholls’ four-year-old Il Ridito gets a big 8lbs weight-for-age allowance and any strong market support for him should be heeded.