2-25 BETFAIR DENMAN CHASE – 3 MILES
Al Ferof is the class act in this line up and the lightly raced grey can take this prize on his way to Cheltenham. Despite finishing only third behind Silvianco Conti and Cue Card over the course and distance last time out, those rivals are solid Gold Cup contenders and there was no disgrace in his performance.
The opposition is not as testing this time around and he is rated twelve pounds higher than anything else in the race. Daryl Jacob has won on Al Ferof in the past and will be keen to show that his mount is worth a place in the Cheltenham showpiece.
Katenko has to be considered the major threat to the selection. Venetia Williams has her yard in excellent form and despite not having won a race in over a year, he is proven at this trip and was once considered to be a contender for the Cheltenham Gold Cup himself.
He will relish the ground and will be there to pick up the pieces should Al Ferof fail to fire. Harry Topper has proved disappointing since winning on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. He finished last of three and some fourteen lengths behind Vino Griego at Sandown.
Connections will be hoping that a return to this track will encourage him back to his best.Vino Griego has gone well here in the past and if he can stay on his feet, he has the potential to pick up a decent amount of prize money. Gary Moore’s nine year old is as versatile as they come but tends to hit a few on the way around.
Walkon has had easier opportunities that this in the past and fluffed his lines.He is readily passed over on this occasion. Al Ferof will need to win this in order to be considered a serious Gold Cup contender and Paul Nicholls may have found the perfect opportunity for him to do that here.
3-35 BETFAIR HURDLE (GRADE 3 HANDICAP) – 2 MILES 110YDS
Totalize looks potentially well treated in the feature race of the day at Newbury. He gets in at the foot of the weights and relishes testing ground. He found only Lac Fontana too strong in a good race at Chelthenham last month and he has already proven his liking for this two mile trip having won over it at Kelso and Musselburgh.
Brian Ellison is a shrewd trainer and that last run should have Totalize pretty much spot on for this race. Aidan Coleman is a noteable jockey booking and having partnered eight winners in the last seven days, the cobmination may prove lethal.
Smashing has been a cosy winner of his last two races having romped home at Limerick and Fairyhouse for Willie Mullins. Having raced in bog like conditions as a juvenile in his native France, the going should hold no fears and he looks to be a very real danger to the selection.
Paul Nicholls galvanised Irish Saint to win a Grade 2 Hurdle at Ascot last month. That was over an extra three furlongs and he has an extra five pounds to carry this afternoon. He dismissed that competitive field out of hand and is another that warrants respect as his stamina is proven.
Rolling Star and Far West have been very disappointing this year. Whilst the former won on his seasonal reappearance, he was left floundering in the mud at Ascot next time. Far West does not seemed to have progressed from last season and neither individual will appreciate having to give weight away to better handicapped sorts.
The likes of Act Of Kalanisi and Deep Trouble will love conditions but have had gruelling seasons so far.
Totalize receives as much as a stone and a half from his rivals today and that could prove to be the ultimate factor. He is still lightly tried and he can add to the decent record that five year olds have in this race.
1-15 GALA RETAIL SPRING JUVENILE HURDLE (GRADE 1) – 2 MILES
Guitar Pete has been a model of consistancy all year and won over this course and distance last time out. He readily saw off the attentions of Clarcam who boosted the form by running so well at Musselburgh only last week.
He has had a decent break to get over those exertions and with Barry Geraghty riding for the first time, the duo look capable of going close.
His biggest rival looks set to be Ivan Grozny who dotted in by no fewer than twelve lengths at Naas last time. This is a massive step up in grade for the Willie Mullins trained individual but he deserves to take his chance.
Bryan Cooper is required to ride Tiger Roll who makes his debut for Gordon Elliott this afternoon having been purchased by Gigginstown Stud following a facile win at Market Rasen last Autumn. That form is open to plenty of question, but he could be anything.
Plinth represents JP McManus and Aiden O’Brien and his form closely ties in with Ivan Grozny and he holds similar claims. As Guitar Pete is proven at this level and at the track he looks the value in the race.
3-50 HENNESSY GOLD CUP (GRADE 1) – 3 MILES
Tidal Bay comes here on the back of an excellent run in the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow back in December. He was only beaten a length into third place and was giving almost two stone to the horses that finished in front of him.
He renews his association with Ruby Walsh and they combined to land the Lexus Chase over this course and distance just over a year ago.
First Lieutenant rarely runs a bad race but he often finds at least one too good. He is highly talented and is the choice of new Gigginstown stable jockey Bryan Cooper and has to merit serious consideration. Last Instalment finished behind another of today’s rivals in Texas Jack last time out.
That was his first run in almost two years and he should of course be all the better for it. Bryan Cooper rode Last Instalment on his most recent run, but he clearly feels that First Lieutenant is the better of the two runners.
Gigginstown’s third runner is Roi Du Mee and he will be fully at home under these conditions and won when unfancied by many at Down Royal back in November. Gordon Elliott will have him primed to run a huge race and he is capable of making the frame.
Texas Jack is a talented handicapper and may well find himself out of his depth against proven stayers. Lyreen Legend will love the ground and should come on from his seasonal reappearance behind Bob’s Worth. He has not won a race since October 2012 and that is of course a major concern.
Lord Windermere has proved frustrating this season and would prefer better ground. Paul Nicholls clearly feels that this race is very winnable and has had no hesitation in sending Tidal Bay over to contest it. Now that he is reunited with Ruby Walsh, they can roll back the years.
[table] Course, Pick
SAT NEWBURY 2-05, AL FEROF
SAT NEWBURY 3-35, TOTALIZE (E/W)
SUN LEOPARDSTOWN 1-15, GUITAR PETE
SUN LEOPARDSTOWN 3-50, TIDAL BAY [/table]