A busy weekend on the horse racing front with three National Hunt meetings to look forward to, covered by the ITV cameras.
The Greatwood Gold Cup is the feature race at Newbury, while Doncaster host the Grimthorpe Chase which is regularly used as a prep race for the Grand National. It is also Kelso’s feature meeting at of the season.
Soft and heavy ground looks like being the order of the day across all three venues so stamina will be at a premium, but we have some decent fields, and competitive-looking cards.
2.40 KELSO – ESPOIR DE ROMAY
Kelso’s Premier Chase was won twelve months ago by Cloth Cap who then went off 11/2f for the Grand National, and a few runners here will be using this a steppingstone to the World’s greatest steeplechase.
I think ESPOIR DE ROMAY will likely go off favourite this Saturday, and his claims are quite clear. Not at his best on his only start this season back in October at Carlisle in a race that has worked out well, the run coinciding with the Kim Bailey yard having a quiet spell, and it looks as though they have intentionally left him alone for a spring campaign.
At Aintree last year he was in the process of giving Chantry House a real race in the Mildmay before coming to grief two out, and a return to Merseyside may be in the offering for the Grade 1 Bowl if all goes to plan here.
Fourteen months ago he was second to Royale Pagaille trying to concede 5lb, and that form entitles him to a clear chance here. He is officially 9lb clear of his rivals, arrives a fresh horse, handles all types of ground, and the yard is in much better form than they have been for most of the campaign.
3.30 DONCASTER – MISTER MALARKEY
I was hoping to see MISTER MALARKEY line up at Kempton last Saturday, but it appears his new stable may have found a good opportunity in the Grimthorpe at Donny this afternoon instead.
He hasn’t been seen since finishing down the field in the Ladbrokes Trophy in November, but has subsequently swapped Colin Tizzard’s Sherborne yard for that of Richard J Bandey in Hampshire.
This has been a breakthrough season for his new handler thanks to the exploits of Saint Palais, and he has taken charge of a very well-handicapped horse here.
His last win came in December 2020 but has only had the six runs since. That came off a mark of 150 and he finished third off 155 in the 2021 version of last weekend’s Kempton handicap chase.
He is down almost a stone now to 142, won a Reynoldstown Chase as a novice, and was second at the Aintree Grand National meeting the same year.
If the yard switch has renewed his vigour he looks very well treated, and I am happy to take a chance on him having been keen on his Kempton claims seven days ago.
3.37 NEWBURY – BOLD PLAN
BOLD PLAN (pictured, above) got back to winning ways at Market Rasen last month and I think he can follow up at Newbury this afternoon.
Even Williams’ runner promised plenty a couple of years ago when winning a lucrative handicap hurdle at Haydock, and beat The Big Breakaway over fences at Exeter, which looked good form at the time.
He lost his way subsequently but battled on well to win in Lincolnshire three and a half weeks ago and with the trainer’s daughter now able to claim 5lb, he is effectively just 1lb higher for a near three length victory.
He will handle conditions and as he looked like developing into a potential graded performer and is still relatively lightly-raced for an 8yo, he could be the answer in a field of largely disappointing types who have no secrets from the handicapper.
Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes
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