Joseph O’Brien’s Us And Them was nibbled at for Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup on Tuesday morning and was cut from 12s to 10/1 with the sponsors after each way – 5 places – support. Birchdale is due to make his eagerly-awaited chase debut on Friday and Nicky Henderson’s novice was trimmed from 5/2 to 2/1 at BetVictor for Cheltenham where he is likely to take on old rival Brewin’upastorm (7/2 from 3s) although the latter must concede 5lbs to the likely market leader.
Soft ground at our three jumps meetings today and we start at Exeter where I hope to see Big Meadow (1.25) follow up last week’s success in a conditional jockey’s event at Chepstow. The selection escapes a penalty for that success and is 6lbs “well in” given he has been raised by that amount although his new rating does not kick in until the weekend. Bryony Frost takes over in the saddle and, if he is over last week’s exertions, he will be tough to beat.
The feature race is a valuable limited handicap chase for novices and I am loath to desert Golden Sunrise who did us a favour when making all over C&D last time from an 8lbs lower mark. He looks sure to go close but the each way vote goes to De Name Evades Me (2.35) who made an encouraging chase debut when third at Chepstow in a decent novice event last month.
Fergal O’Brien’s seven-year-old is entitled to come on for the run given that was his first start since New Year’s Day. Cloudy Glen and Southern Sam are others to consider in what promises to be a race to follow.
The form of Queens Cave (4.10) second to Silver Forever at Chepstow last month was given a boost when the winner followed up at Newbury last week in a hot contest. David Pipe’s mare finished runner up in a listed Bumper at Sandown in March 2018 before disappointing when a long odds on favourite at Ayr. She got her career back on track following a break in South Wales and the hope is that she can build on that excellent comeback.
Over at Bangor-on-Dee and Alan King’s Alsa Mix makes her chase debut in the listed Mares’ Novices’ Chase for Alan King. She is a winning pointer who won a Grade 2 over hurdles at Sandown last season and has the scope to jump a fence but she lacks the experience of Agusta Gold (1.15) who impressed with her jumping when making all at Thurles last time. The Irish raider wouldn’t have been as good a hurdler as the King runner but I hope to see her jumping win the day.
The Wolf (2.55) was entered in the BetVictor Intermediate Hurdle at Cheltenham at the weekend but perhaps connections wanted to avoid the hurly burly of that competitive handicap. Trainer Olly Murphy hinted in a recent interview with the Racing Post that his five-year-old might make up into something better than a handicapper in time. With that in mind, I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race from his opening mark. His ability to handle heavy ground must be taken on trust – his recent Fakenham win was on good ground – but I was sweet on his chances at Cheltenham and I cannot desert him despite reservations about the suitability of the ground.
I’m not convinced Donald McCain’s string are firing on all cylinders but he has a number of runners at his home track of Bangor-on-Dee and also saddles Lord Springfield (2.45) at Ayr who has had his wind tweaked since running a good race when last seen back in January. A winning pointer in his native Ireland the selection makes his chase debut off what looks an attractive mark – especially if the second wind operation in his short career helps his breathing.
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