Weatherbys' weekend racing preview
Paul Jones of Weatherbys previews this weekend's televised races. Read his thoughts below:
Coeur De Fou is interesting now that the Tom George yard has come out of its slump. His close-up third at Cheltenham two runs back is his run that is catching my eye where he kept on really well on the run-in to be beaten over a length and I would look at that run rather than finishing third at Doncaster last time on good ground as he is clearly a staying two-miler so this ground on this track should suit him well.
Zafrangar beat him at Cheltenham but he has struggled under his new handicap mark since then so I would be very hopeful he can turn the tables. Henry King won a good bumper here but has not gone on since then and maybe running him against Dunguib at Cheltenham came too soon in his career after just one run.
He has a great chance of his second to Pepe Simo on his hurdling debut and was upsides Bellvano when falling two out here but his last run at Wincanton was most disappointing. I am sure Osric must be better than he has shown in three starts so far and could fare a lot better now sent to a novices' handicap and is interestingr.
Good ground is the order of the day at Doncaster at present so I don't think the ground is soft enough for According To Pete and just wonder whether the handicapper may have caught up with Spring Breeze for his last two hurdling runs (and wins) and he has run well in three races on the Flat since.
I can see a big run from Squadron. Restricted to just one start this season, Alan King's horses have been in good form this week with 10 of his last 11 runners before today all finishing in the first three. He wouldn't have been sharp enough for his belated seasonal debut behind Alfie Sherrin a couple of weeks back but that should have put him spot on and he is open to plenty of improvement moving up to this distance from his runs last season.
Wendel is another once-raced-this-season contender I have plenty of time for as two of his novice hurdle runs last season gives him a big chance having not been beaten far by Medermit before easily beating Chariot Charger. A 104 day absence is not usually a problem for the Charlie Mann yard.
A veterans' handicap chase and Trabolgan will surely be popular having won a Hennessy on his last visit to Newbury but he got shot of Barry Geraghty four out when poised in behind ten days ago in a similar race. The worry is two runs in ten days for a notoriously fragile horse but I still he is the one to beat.
Gone To Lunch has been most disappointing this season and prefers better ground, Eric's Charm seems miles better at Sandown than anywhere else and Knowhere seems to be getting progressively worse so I feel the dangers are Dom D'Orgeval having his first run for Nick Williams and Briery Fox.
There was good money for Dom D'Orgeval ahead of the Eider Chase last week which was abandoned so I have time for him but I do feel Briery Fox is getting better with each start this season even though he has been off the pace and last season's runner-up in what used to be the Whitbread Gold Cup is now embarking on his time of the season. Providing all eight stand their ground, there may be better value in him each-way than Trabolgan to win.
I am little surprised to see Our Vic declared here thought he might end up at the Cheltenham Festival. He is likely to keep proving me wrong but I do feel he needs 3m+ now so maybe 2m4f even on soft ground wouldn't be enough of a stamina test for him. Interesting to see Walsh on Pasco and not Big Fella Thanks as the latter could still be his Grand National ride (though surely something will have to go amiss with Tricky Trickster) but I can see why as he is a flat, galloping track specialist and, as such, I advised him as a bet over C/D on Hennessy day where he was all over a winner until caught close home.
I would ignore his next run as Exeter's undulations wouldn't be for this massive horse. He is off a 6lbs higher mark than when just touched off on Hennessy day but this looks a less competitive race so I make him the most likely winner.
Battlecry looks an obvious each-way alternative for the yard that won last weekend's big handicap after three second places, the penultimate of which to Watch My Back who is currently ante-post favourite for the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham Festival.
Can't Buy Time runs here in his final prep race before the Grand National so maybe he won't be absolutely cherry ripe and I just don't think Panjo Bere, who won at Ascot for a second time last time out, is as effective racing left-handed.
A good race is this. Iris De Balme is a serious Grand National contender if it rides no worse than good-soft at Aintree (though he is not certain to get a run looking at the weights) but he has got his good ground here for sure and I felt he ran a race chock full of promise in a novice hurdle last month on his first run for 22 months having won the Scottish National and finished fourth in what used to be the Whitbread Gold Cup.
To me he was travelling best two out in that novice hurdle but just blew up and that should have brought him on no end and he runs off the same mark as when fourth (beaten only five lengths) in that big Sandown handicap so has a major chance. As he may not get in at Aintree, I would hope they will be going all out here.
If Coe wins on good ground after I did my dough on him on heavy ground last time I will be seriously cursing but he did catch my eye for the first 2m4f of that 3m4f race so maybe he does have more pace than I thought but I couldn't touch him after the way he weakened last time.
I don't think this will be an exacting enough test of stamina for Merigo who missed his big chance last week when the 4m1f Eider Chase was abandoned. Henry Daly has stated this is a stepping stone to Aintree for Possol so although he will run well he won't get the kitchen sink treatment.
Gidam Gidam, Gypsy George, Daldini and Wogan are all in-form contenders so this is a hot handicap and, of those I prefer Wogan but I think Iris De Balme could be the one for today.
Sean Curran has his string in good nick and could land this handicap hurdle with Classic Dream. Successful on his first two starts of the season at small tracks, Cheltenham and a raise in class was all a bit too much for him last time out and he basically blew his chance early doors by pulling too hard under Mattie Batchelor.
However his regular conditional rider claiming 7lbs who won on him in his previous two races is back in the plate today in a less demanding race and that could make all the difference. Marc Aurele for Nicholls and Walsh is likely to be towards the head of the market but there can be little doubt he has not exceeded expectations at all over hurdles so could be a false price and looks like he might be worth taking on.
Benfleet Boy would also enter consideration off top weight. He likes this track having finished a close second here twice on the Flat and over hurdles and looks an ideal kind of McCoy ride who takes the leg up for the first time. Given Marc Aurele has not lived up to expectations, it may be worth chancing Classic Dream and Benfleet Boy to small stakes to come out and top.