The Cheltenham festival may well be looming fast on the horizon, but there’s still some excellent racing action to set the pulse going a couple of notches faster this weekend. The most prestigious race cross-channel on Saturday takes place at Kempton in the form of the Grade 3 Racing Post Chase, a three-mile handicap.
Paul Nicholls has his team in terrific fettle at the moment and he should collect this £100,000 contest with Big Fella Thanks. Representing the Denman connections of Paul Barber and Mrs Margaret Findlay, Big Fella Thanks announced his arrival in the big-time league with a comprehensive success in the coveted Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on January 24th. In truth, Big Fella Thanks demolished the opposition with Christian Williams at the Yorkshire venue and with Ruby Walsh in the plate here, the son of Primitive Rising is taken to continue in a victorious capacity at the expense of Ugaro.
Perhaps, Nicholls will also capture the afternoon’s main supporting event, the Grade 2 Racing Post Weekender Pendil Novices’ Chase with Herecomesthetruth.
Yet another former winning Irish point-to-pointer, Herecomesthetruth has won his three most recent starts and the seven-year-old is likely to have most to fear here from Premier Des Marais.
The lightly-raced Den Of Iniquity, trained by Carl Llewelyn, should make his second start over flights a winning one by beating Eradicate in the Grade 2 williamhill.com Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle. Alan Fleming’s Starluck meanwhile is marginally preferred to Helium in the Grade 2 RACINGPOST.COM Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle.
Up north, the main focus of attention will be on Newcastle with the marathon totesport.com Eider Chase, run over four miles and one furlong, occupying pride of place at the Gosforth Park venue. Jass, whilst burdened with joint top-weight of 11-12, looks as if he will play a major part.
The Keith Reveley-trained Jass has won his two most recent starts and indeed, he has been raised a whopping 13lbs for his authoritative success at Doncaster last time. Reveley’s string are in cracking form at present and Jass should continue the excellent run of the Groundhill Farm team by showing a clean pair of heels to Fair Question.
The totescoop6 Handicap Hurdle is also televised and this two-mile contest looks set to be dominated by Calcutta Cup and First Look with narrow preference for the former.
It seems that Chepstow won’t be screened, but those looking for a winner at the popular Welsh course would be best advised to have a punt on Oamaru Stone in the concluding totesportbingo.com Maiden National Hunt Flat Race.
Oamaru Stone, in truth never even remotely came off the bridle when winning a Templemore maiden point-to-point in November for former handler Pat Doyle. The Presenting-sired gelding was then purchased by Paul Nicholls and is reported to be doing well at Ditcheat. Therefore, Oamaru Stone is likely to take all the beating in this extended two-mile contest, a one that could possibly also concern Aim For The Stars.
Domestically, there’s racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday with Naas the venue on Sunday. At Fairyhouse, the featured event is the Grade 2 At The Races Bobbyjo Chase and it seems probable that One Cool Cookie will play a pivotal role in the ultimate destination of this prize.
The Charlie Swan-trained One Cool Cookie made all the running to win the coveted Wilf Dooly Chase over two miles and five furlongs at Tramore on New Year’s Day, the son of Old Vic then more than acquitting himself when finishing fourth to Cailin Alainn in a Grade 2 chase over two and a half miles at Thurles on January 29th. The step up in trip here to three miles one furlong will suit One Cool Cookie and he looks set to show a clean pair of heels to Black Apalachi.
French Riviera could spring a mild surprise in the Grade 2 Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle.
The Michael O’Brien-trained French Riviera, a gelded son of Montjeu, made an excellent start to his hurdling career by finishing fourth to the smart Ebadiyan in a Naas maiden hurdle in early January. Ebadiyan in truth is one of our very best juvenile hurdlers this season and, whilst beaten almost 36 lengths by Oliver Brady’s aforementioned charge, French Riviera just could prove capable of upstaging Chevalier Country here.
An Siorrac should announce his arrival as a seriously-talented racehorse by returning to the coveted number one slot in the John McCarthy Memorial Hunters Chase over an extended two miles six furlongs.
Enda Bolger’s An Siorrac created a hugely favourable impression by winning his only two point-to-point starts at Dromahane in north Co Cork late last year. In short, An Siorrac has an abundance of speed, especially on soft ground, and he’s likely to see off the 2006 Cheltenham Foxhunters hero Whyso Mayo.
Lochan Locha should keep supporters of the Tony Martin stable happy by beating Orpheus Valley in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Beginners Chase and Ten Fires should attain due reward for his consistency by disposing of Benjessy in the Early Bird Discounted Tickets For Easter Maiden Hurdle.
The Paul Nolan-trained Moskova, arguably one of the best dual-purpose mares’ in training at the moment, should continue her upward trajectory by getting the better of Rocco’s Hall in the www.attheraces.com Handicap Hurdle. Willie Mullins should continue his terrific strike-rate in bumpers by saddling Hammersmith to score from Glam Gerry in the Rockview (Q.R.) INH Flat Race.
At Naas, Hurricane Carter must be alluded to as virtual banker material in the Grade 2 Woodlands Park 100 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, an event in which he will be bidding to record his third consecutive success within the space of less than a month.
Thomas O’Leary’s Hurricane Carter was rated 114 when making all the running to oblige with Davy Russell in a two and a half mile novice chase at Gowran Park on ‘Thyestes’ day – January 22nd. He once again registered a pillar to post success by beating Dooneys Gate in another two and a half mile contest at Clonmel in early February. Hurricane Carter is now rated 133 and he should continue on his merry way here by defeating Joncol.
Mansony will surely take all the beating in the Grade 2 paddypowerpoker.com Newlands Chase over his favoured two miles trip. On his most recent start, the Arthur Moore-trained gelding was still disputing the lead when he was left clear by the penultimate fence departure of Big Zeb to win a two mile Grade 2 Chase at Punchestown on February 1st. There’s nothing of the calibre of the 159-rated Big Zeb in opposition here and Mansony should possess too many aces for Scotsirish.
Jessica Harrington’s Roberto Goldback should supplement his shock 16/1 success in a Leopardstown novice hurdle in late-January by dismissing Kempes in the Grade 2 paddypower.com Johnstown Novice Hurdle. The closing paddypower.com (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race is best left to Quel Esprit, a facile Willie Mullins-trained bumper winner at Leopardstown over the festive period.