Soft ground forecast for Gowran Park tomorrow and I am looking forward to the possible reappearance of Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy who is reported to be on target for the Grade 2 Gilroy Hurdle. The gelding is 4/1 favourite with BetVictor for the Blue Riband of the Cheltenham Festival although we have not seen him since his facile RSA Chase win. That form has taken a few knocks but the third horse home Elegant Escape (beaten 14L) won the Welsh National over Christmas and is 25/1 at BetVictor for the Gold Cup himself.
Catterick must pass a precautionary 8am inspection this morning but officials appear optimistic the meeting will be given the green light. In the opener Jamie Snowden’s Hogan’s Height (1.20) made all and stayed on strongly to win over C&D last time reverting to timber having disappointed over fences on his penultimate start. Only four go to post but all hold realistic chances in a fascinating opener.
Boasian DuBois must have every chance in the Handicap Chase over an extended 3m 1f but I hope this is the day for Shaniya (1.55) to gain his first win since the summer of 2016. The selection is hardly a serial winner but ran a very good race when runner up to Nortonthorpelegend at Wetherby last time and a repeat would see him go very close in this grade.
I will be disappointed if there is not more to come from Young Wolf (2.30) on his handicap debut for trainer Jonjo O’Neill with his son in the saddle taking off a valuable 5lbs. The selection ran a good race at Hereford when last seen back in December on just his second start over timber and he is entitled to significant improvement.
Edward Austin keeps the ride on Always Resolute who was a winner on his penultimate start in November and was not disgraced in a better race at Ascot last time when well supported in the market.
Manwell (3.00) is taken to land his hat-trick having won over today’s C&D before scoring at Wetherby from a 7lbs lower mark earlier in the month. He is in the form of his life at present and could be called the winner from some way out last time.
I hope it is a good day for the connections of Manwell as they also saddle Choochoobugaloo (4.05) who races under a 7lbs penalty for her facile win at Kelso last time. She has been raised 14lbs for that win and is thus 7lbs “well-in” under her penalty.
Over at Hereford and I hope to see Enola Gay (2.50) take advantage of the 5lbs he receives from recent Market Rasen scorer Cesar Collonges who certainly has the scope for the larger obstacles and will be a tough nut to crack. The selection deserves to get his head in front over fences, however, having run three good races in defeat so far this term for the inform Venetia Williams’ team.
There is a cracking Hunter Chase and I hope to see one last hurrah from Village Vic (3.55) who is now a 12-year-old but was a very good chaser at this two-and-a-half-mile trip in his pomp including a second to Taquin Du Seuil in the BetVictor Gold Cup of 2016. Like many of the Philip Hobbs yard he had a disappointing season last term, but if he gets into a decent rhythm on, or near, the lead he can show his rivals a clean pair of hooves.
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