The Cheltenham festival is almost upon us at this stage. However, the process of finding winners must go on regardless and this Saturday there are three televised British fixtures to choose from in the form of Newbury, Kempton and Doncaster.
At Newbury, Maljimar looks the part in the featured Grade 3 Connaught Gold Cup Handicap Chase.
This Nick Williams-trained eight-year-old has been in quite good form this season and, having his won his most recent start, he’s put forward to continue the current terrific run of the The Listener’s regular partner Daryll Jacob. In all probability, Maljimar should have most to fear from Regal Heights.
Beggars Cap can justify the lengthy trek southwards from Ferdy Murphy’s North Yorkshire premises by disposing of Space Cowboy in the Connaught Partnerships Novice Handicap Chase and Paul Nicholls’ former Cheltenham Gold Cup fourth placed Royal Auclair can show a return to his very best form by showing a clean pair of heels to Tana River in the National Britannia Veterans’ Handicap Chase.
Meanwhile, Kia Kaka can make it three wins from as many starts in recent times by eclipsing The Duke’s Speech in the Connaught Compliance Handicap Hurdle.
At Kempton, Philip Hobbs’ Gentle John can attain due reward for his consistency by returning to the coveted number one slot from top-weight Desert Quest in the Betfred Novices’ Handicap Chase whilst Robert and Sally Alner’s New Team is marginally preferred to Super Nick in the Betfredcasino Handicap Hurdle.
The main event then at Doncaster is the Coolfun Ltd Grimthorpe Chase and it could witness an interesting head to head between two of the leading contenders for the Aintree Grand National in Cloudy Lane and Mr Pointment. Cloudy Lane has won his two most recent starts for trainer Donald McCain and the eight-year-old is recommended to triumph from Ruby Walsh’s mount Mr Pointment.
On home soil meanwhile, there’s racing at Navan on Saturday whilst enthusiasts can choose between Leopardstown and Clonmel on Sunday.
At Navan, Dashing George looks the part in the Garlow Cross Handicap Hurdle.
This Eric McNamara-trained gelding has won and been placed second on all four of his most recent forays. Last time, the six-year-old posted a most commendable effort when beaten five lengths into second spot by Drumconvis in a two mile three furlong handicap hurdle at Naas. A final flight mistake it can be argued certainly didn’t aid Dashing George’s cause on that occasion and he’s likely to possess too many aces for Indifference Curve here.
Dante Hall should regain the winning thread in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Chase.
Tommy Stack’s charge was more than likely out of his depth when falling at the second last on his most recent start in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Punchestown, but he had previously recorded a bloodless victory in a two mile five furlong beginner’s chase at Fairyhouse in mid-December. Dante Hall is likely to stay the three miles of this particular race and he’s taken to show a clean pair of heels to Talktothetail.
Fivestar Alstars can record his third consecutive success for Tallow operator Philip Goulding in the Navan Handicap Chase.
This son of Fourstars Allstar showed abundant reserves of stamina to win a two-mile handicap chase at Naas on February 9, having previously romped home in another such contest at Fairyhouse. Now racing off 118, a mark 22 lbs higher than he won over at Fairyhouse, Fivestar Alstars is likely to dismiss The Joker here.
Joe Crowley’s former Cheltenham festival bumper winner Hairy Molly should open his account over fences in the Trim Beginners Chase and The Thirsty Bricky can vindicate the promise of his excellent third-placed debut effort in a Gowran Park winners’ bumper in late January by upstaging Forty Foot in the Athlumney (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
At Leopardstown, Fred’s Benefit is virtual banker material in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Novice Chase.
The Willie Mullins-trained Fred’s Benefit, whilst notoriously difficult to settle, has already obliged on two out of his four starts over fences this season and he won a two mile five furlong Fairyhouse novice chase by a distance from Highmount on February 13. The horse seems adaptable as regards distance and he can make a successful drop down in trip here to two miles and one furlong by denying Lenrey.
Decoy Daddy should bounce back to winning ways in the Madigans Hurdle.
This Tony Mullins-trained son of Lord Of Appeal performed respectably on his most recent start when coming third to Trafford Lad in the Grade 1 Barry and Sandra Kelly Memorial Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in mid-December. This event reflects a massive drop in class for Decoy Daddy, a facile winner over flights at Cork in November, and he’s taken to oblige from South West One.
Black Apalachi may prove the pick in a most competitive renewal of the Mick Holly Memorial Handicap Chase.
This Dessie Hughes-trained gelding was only beaten five lengths into second spot by Preists Leap in the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park last month and, having been raised six pounds for that display, Black Apalachi looks set to oblige from Carrigeen Kalmia here.
Leg Spinner, a former Royal Ascot winner, is the undoubted class act in the Waterways Handicap Hurdle and Adrian Maguire’s Let Yourself Go, an authoritative Cork bumper winner in mid-December, can cement his burgeoning reputation by making a victorious debut over flights in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden Hurdle.
Proceedings get under way at Clonmel at 2.10pm and Dani California will surely go close in the Clonmel Hurdle over two miles.
Dani California, trained by Willie Mullins, put his vast experience over timber to excellent use by winning a Down Royal maiden hurdle with even remotely coming off the bridle on February 6. Dani California ultimately triumphed by 14 lengths at the Maze venue and he’s likely to prove superior to the ultra-consistent Silver Jaro here.
Save The Bacon is the clear class act in the Comeragh Maiden Hurdle.
A 110-rated performer, the Tony Martin-trained Save The Bacon was headed from the final flight in a two-mile handicap hurdle at Navan in mid-February having bravely tried to make all with Ruby Walsh. Save The Bacon could go one better here by seeing off Our Matti.
Jimmy Mangan’s Princely Perk, a fine third on his most previous start at this same venue behind Arteea in a hotly-contested conditions chase, has Oscar Honey to beat in the Slievenamon Beginners Chase whilst Grangeclare Gold should prove capable of mastering Grancore Girl in the Ardfinnan (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.