The weights came out yesterday for the BetVictor Gold Cup to be run at Cheltenham on Saturday week and Colin Tizzard’s Slate House has been given a weight of 10st 5lbs. He looks a worthy market leader at 6/1 with BetVictor.
If Venetia Williams saddles top-weight Aso – 20s at BetVictor – then I would be keen on the chances of Kalashnikov (10st 13lbs) – 7/1 at BetVictor – who is entitled to come on for his Aintree reappearance which turned into more of a flat race than a jumping test with six fences omitted on account of the low sun.
There is a terrific card at Newbury this afternoon with the ground given as good – good to soft in places – at noon on Wednesday with light rain and showers forecast.
A number of the big yards are represented in the Novices Hurdle and Nicky Henderson won the corresponding race two years ago with Claimantakinforgan. The Lambourn handler saddles Her Majesty’s Steal A March and the Royal runner shaped with considerable promise on debut when fourth at Worcester in a Bumper back in the summer.
The vote, however, goes to Sir Valentine (1.30) who was in the process of running a very big race when coming down two out at Chepstow last month returning from an 800-day lay-off. That form has been franked by the Wetherby win of Proschema at the weekend and the Nigel Twiston-Davies runner must go close if none the worse for his spill.
The Beginners’ Chase is worth the admission fee alone with Champ making his eagerly awaited chase debut for Henderson. Champ finished runner up at the Cheltenham Festival last season before winning at Aintree and he is held in the highest regard at Seven Barrows. He is also bred to make a chaser given he is out of a half-sister to Best Mate.
The each way vote, however, goes to Beakstown (2.05) who has valuable chase experience having finished runner up to Sam Spinner at Wetherby over a trip short of his best. Dan Skelton’s 6-y-old was rated 12lbs inferior to the likely market leader over timber but he is entitled to come on for his Wetherby experience and also has the scope to be a top-class chaser.
The valuable mares’ novices’ hurdle is another race that wouldn’t look out of place at Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting next weekend. Floressa and Silver Forever were very impressive in their wins at Worcester and Chepstow respectively and deserve their lofty reputations representing their top yards.
They both carry a 5lbs penalty, however, and I hope all eight line up as I would be disappointed if Aggy With It (2.35) did not run a big race in receipt of 5lbs from the principles and she gets the each way vote. The Skelton mare had not been asked a question when coming down two out behind Floressa and if the rain got into the ground, I would be hopeful that she would have a good chance of reversing the form on 5lb better terms.
My two against the field in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase are Molineaux – who has his first start since a wind operation – and Dustin Des Mottes (3.40) with marginal preference for the latter who represents the yard of Dr Richard Newland.
The selection took time to acclimatise to his new surroundings last term but he knew how to win in his native France and can leave last season’s form behind for his shrewd yard.
At Market Rasen The Bay Birch (2.15) is difficult to oppose having ran away with a competitive handicap at Chepstow last time against the geldings and she is taken to land the listed Mares’ only contest back against her own sex.
Sojourn (2.45) won an Aintree Bumper on his seasonal reappearance last term and makes his chase debut over what looks an attractive mark for Anthony Honeyball whose string were largely out of sorts last term.
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