There are two televised British race meetings to choose from this Saturday; Sandown and Wetherby.
The Grade 1 totesport.com Scilly Isles Chase occupies centre stage at Sandown and realistically, it will take a smart one to lower the colours of Tidal Bay in this extended two and a half mile contest.
The Howard Johnson-trained seven-year-old is unbeaten on his three forays over fences to date. Already ante-post favourite for the Irish Independent Arkle Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on March 11th, Tidal Bay can continue on his merry way here at the expense of Denman’s own-brother Silverburn.
Straw Bear seems the definite class act in the Grade 2 totescoop6 Contenders Hurdle. On his most recent start, Nick Gifford’s charge wasn’t found wanting when beating Harchibald by a head with the currently-sidelined Tony McCoy in the Grade 1 Stan James Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on December 26th. In what should develop into a virtual head-to-head contest, Straw Bear is confidently recommended to dispose of Afsoun.
Haggle Twins appears quite well-treated on 10-1 in the Grade 3 totepool Heroes Handicap Hurdle and Charlie Mann’s charge looks likely to excel from Overstrand whilst last season’s Irish Grand National winner Butler’s Cabin should prove marginally superior to Ardaghey in the totesport Masters Handicap Chase.
At Wetherby meanwhile, Leading Authority stands out in the Grade 2 totesport 0800 221 221 Towton Novices’ Chase. Leading Authority has won his two most recent outings and the Supreme Leader-sired gelding can justify the lengthy trek from trainer Colin Tizzard’s Dorset stables by landing this three miles one furlong contest from Here’s Johnny.
Tom Taaffe’s Irish challenger Tumbling Dice can show a return to his very best form by disposing of top-weight Regal Heights in the totesportgames.com Handicap Chase whilst Albany and Tighten Your Belt are a likely pair in the toteexacta Handicap Hurdle.
There’s a busy domestic programme over the weekend with racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday whilst enthusiasts can choose between Punchestown and Limerick on Sunday.
At Fairyhouse, it could pay to row in behind Omas Glen in the Easter Tickets On-Line Handicap Chase.
The Cecil Ross-trained mare got off the mark over the larger obstacles on her most recent start when defeating a 109-rated opponent in Valley Of Giants by four lengths in a two-mile beginners’ chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day. Whilst Omas Glen is now rated 110 as a result of that success, she can continue on her merry way here at the expense of Johnee Joblot, already a dual winner over fences this season.
Prince Erik should prove very hard to beat in the Easyfix Rubber Products Novice Handicap Hurdle.
This Dermot Weld-trained grey, who did after all have the class to finish a fine sixth behind Soldier Of Fortune in last season’s Irish Derby, created a hugely favourable impression when opening his account over flights in a two-mile maiden hurdle at last week’s Gowran Park ‘Thyestes’ fixture. Now rated 113, Prince Erik is taken to oblige from Golden Kite on this occasion.
C’est Ca appeals as the most likely winner of the Corporate Hospitality At Fairyhouse Hurdle. This Willie Mullins-trained British-bred quite simply destroyed the opposition by landing a juvenile maiden hurdle at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve to the tune of 17 lengths. C’est Ca is both a normal frontrunner and a relentless galloper and it will come as a major surprise if he doesn’t show a clean pair of heels to Dal Cais here.
Emma Jane, a former more than useful hurdler, can get her turn over fences by returning to the coveted number one slot from Candy Girl in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Beginners Chase and Itsmylife, an own-sister to last year’s Galway Hurdle winner Farmer Brown, is likely to posses too many aces for Rosmerta in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund/Doncaster Sales Mares (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
Meanwhile, Captain Cee Bee is likely to be the star turn at Punchestown on Sunday if going to post in the Grade 2 Byrne Group Plc Novice Hurdle.
Facile winner of a one mile three furlong Killarney maiden in the summer, Captain Cee Bee has really impressed this winter by effortlessly obliging on his two starts over timber. Captain Cee Bee seems a horse with genuine Cheltenham festival aspirations and he looks likely to contain Sophocles here.
Newmill will surely regain the winning thread in the Grade 2 Byrne Group Plc Tied Cottage Chase. The John Murphy-trained son of Norwich, emphatic winner of the 2006 renewal of Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, showed a return to something like his best form by finishing third to Nickname in the rescheduled Normans Grove Chase at Gowran Park last Thursday – January 24th. That was a most commendable performance on Newmill’s part and he can show the necessary improvement here to eclipse seasonal debutante Cailin Alainn.
Oscar India can continue the terrific run being currently enjoyed by local trainer Henry de Bromhead by landing the ASpace Cabins Grand National Trial Handicap Chase.
On his most recent foray, the nine-year-old perhaps was a shade unlucky when beaten a head into second spot by Well Run in a three mile one furlong handicap chase at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day. Raised six lbs for that effort to a new mark of 115, Oscar India should have no difficulty whatsoever in staying the three and a half miles of this particular race and he’s likely to claim the scalp of Dante Hall here.
Heads Onthe Ground can atone for an uncharacteristic fall at Leopardstown last time out by triumphing from Never Compromise in the BGC P.P. Hogan Memorial Cross Country Chase and Royal Paradise should have most to fear from Sir Overbury in the Jim Ryan Racecourse Services Handicap Hurdle.
At Limerick, Alabama Banjo should vindicate the ‘horses for courses theory’ to best possible effect in the INH Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund Novice Hurdle.
On his most recent start, the Eric McNamara-trained gelding effortlessly won a maiden hurdle over this same course and two-mile distance on December 27th. Whilst competition is likely to be more intense here, Alabama Banjo seems to be on an upward trajectory and he’s taken to excel from Capel Lad.
Willie Mullins’ Financial Reward, a son of Annshoon Stud stallion Fruits Of Love, can make a triumphant start to his career over fences by dismissing Middlemarch in the Coffey Construction Beginners Chase and former winning point-to-pointer Themoonandsixpence should prove capable of mastering the long-absent Let Him Off in the closing Kevin Frost Memorial (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.