After the great flu shut out is a great extended weekend of racing, starting tomorrow with some decent runners at Kelso, albeit at short odds.
Ones to watch are Dream Du Grand Val (1.25 4/7f), We Have A Dream in the Morebattle (2.25 4/9f), Definitly Red in a match with Captain Redbeard (3.00 1/7f) and Shantou Flyer against more suitable company in the hunters’ chase (4.10 1/2f).
The feature at Clonmel is the 2.40 Grade 3 3m novices’ hurdle, featuring a number of Ballymore and Albert Bartlett entries. All the main yards are represented including Willie Mullins (Allaho 5/1), Henry de Bromhead (Capuccimix 9/2), Gordon Elliott (Swordsman 5/1) and Noel Meade (Eurobot 12/1) plus several second strings. It’s far too competitive for a bet but a decent candidate for Cheltenham could well emerge.
Friday is likely to see Kalashnikov at Sandown in the rescheduled Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase and Posh Trish in the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle, as well as Rathlin Rose off 12st 10lbs and, after 593 days (439P), Keltus, 15-y-o Pete The Feat and, for Ben Pauling, the very consistent Carlos Du Fruitier, all entered in the Artillery Gold Cup.
Saturday is spectacular with 10 races on ITV including another Irish race live on terrestrial TV, the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase from Gowran, featuring Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (4/6f), Monalee (9/4), Bachasson (7/1), Anibale Fly (8/1) and Killultagh Vic (8/1). There’s also a Grade 3 hurdle with entries including Farclas, Forge Meadow and Coeur Sublime, as well as an interesting beginners’ chase.
Haydock includes the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle with entries including one of my current favourites of the season, Quel Destin, the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle with Yanworth and If You Say Run, a Pertmeps qualifier including Blaklion, and a number of other familiar names, the Grade 3 Grand National Trial which could be an absolute cracker and a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle, plus one of the notable pre-Cheltenham races, the Walrus Hunters’ Chase.
Wincanton features the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle, which also looks like it could be a top race, although many of the candidates hold multiple entries.
And then we have the unparalleled nine race card at Ascot. I’ve listed the main races with notable candidates.
1.35 Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase – Grade 2
Glen Rocco and Coup De Pinceau
2.10 Swinley Chase (Listed)
Coneygree, Black Corton, Yanworth, Glen Rocco
2.45 Denman Chase (Grade 2)
King George winner Clan Des Obeaux, Terrefort, Coneygree, Royal Vacation
3.20 Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3)
Grand Sancy, Mont Des Alavoirs, Getaway Trump, Al Dancer and one at an outside price that I’ll keep up my sleeve until the declarations are out!
3.55 Ascot Chase (Grade 1)
Cyrname, Fox Norton, Politologue and, at last (appropriately), Waiting Patiently.
And if that wasn’t enough, there are two Grade 2s at Navan on Sunday.
What a weekend. It’s fair to say that the Cheltenham picture is likely to be very much clearer in a few days. My schedule? Get the jobs done on Friday morning and settle down with a few real ales for a feast of racing!