An exciting and busy start to the final weekend of January as five race meetings are slated across Britain and Ireland on Friday.
Jumps fare comes from Huntingdon and Doncaster, both featuring Listed races, while the all-weather tracks at Lingfield, Dundalk and Wolverhampton are also in action.
Our Friday fancies include a mare in the form of her life for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The feature race at Huntingdon, after they passed an early morning inspection, is the Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase (3.00) and it has attracted a quality line-up to the Cambridgeshire circuit to compete for the top prize in excess of £42k.
Last year’s winner Pink Legend is back for Venetia Williams, joined by unbeaten chaser Tweet Skirt for Nicky Henderson and intriguing Irish raider Jeremy’s Flame for Gavin Cromwell.
The last-named just about holds the best form, having won a Naas Grade 3 against geldings in November, but that race altered dramatically with two last-fence departures and she was perhaps fortunate.
She’s bumping into a mare in superb fettle now in ZAMBELLA (6/4), Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge going in search of her eighth career win in this grade.
She looked as good as ever at Doncaster four weeks ago when completing successive wins in the Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase, with today’s rival Pink Legend a well-held third, and Daryl Jacob’s partner should prove a very tough nut to crack from the front in her current mood. She deserves favouritism and can justify it.
Our second selection on Friday goes in the Listed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle (2.40) at Doncaster and is bidding to maintain a perfect record over hurdles for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville.
ARCLIGHT (EVS) made a good start to her career over C&D late last month, fending off the re-opposing Greyval in the home straight despite the latter travelling smoothly to that point.
They meet on the same terms here and a similar outcome is forecast, which would see Arclight justifying her spot on the Most Napped table via the Betfred Betfinder today.
The Champs Elysees filly has another win under her belt since that, going to Kempton in the middle of the month and winning by a very wide margin, albeit after main market rival Regally Blonde made it no further than the first flight. She re-opposes today but the Triumph Hurdle-entered Arclight looks progressive and can handle this step up into Listed company without issue for her top team.
The Crowne Plaza Dundalk Race & Stay Handicap (5.00) is a typically open Dundalk contest for a Friday evening and one in which BURREN SONG (6/1) should give a strong account for trainer Andrew Slattery.
The gelding is yet to win at this venue but has run with purpose in three of his four visits. Last time, he was beaten just ¾-length over 1m4f in an apprentice race earlier this month and, with his sole turf win coming at 1m2f, this drop back in trip should be no concern to him now.
The assessor bumped him up 1lb for that good effort here a fortnight ago but, with that being an apprentice race, Cian Horgan can claim his full allowance tonight, effectively leaving Burren Song 2lb better off.
He should be thereabouts and with this being a Betfred Extra Place Race, punters are playing for four places, something Burren Song has achieved in three of his four Dundalk starts.