1-15 SIR PETER O’SULLEVAN MEMORIAL HANDICAP CHASE – 2 M 6 F 93YDS
Shangani is back down to his last winning mark and hinted at a return to form with a fine second to Howlongisafoot at Taunton on what was his seasonal reappearance. Aiden Coleman has been on board for three of his four career wins to date and it is of note that he is back on this afternoon. Underfoot conditions suit this nine year old and with the yard in a rich vein of form at present he looks destined to go well at a track where he has won in the past.
Abracadabra Sivola was firmly put in his place by Native River at Exeter a few weeks ago. It is not the biggest of surprises to see Nick Williams drop him in trip given the fact that he was beaten sixteen lengths on that occasion. Native River has gone in again though and is improving so that run may well have been above average. Given that Abracadabra Sivola receives weight from all bar two rivals, he has to rate the likeliest danger on ground he will love. Si C’etait Vrai won three of his nineteen starts for Dessie Hughes but hasn’t been on the track for almost eighteen months. He has gone well fresh in the past though and if he improves for the switch of stables he could well get involved.
Shangani has plenty of experience in this sphere and that should stand him in good stead. Every inch of rain that falls will increase his chances and with the blinkers reapplied he has a good each way shout.
2-40 AT THE RACES REHEARSAL CHASE (LISTED HANDICAP) – 2 M 7 F 91YDS
Virak was a model of consistency last season and won four of the six chases that he contested. He has always been considered as a long term prospect and despite only finishing in the midfield at Ascot last time, he will improve for that run. It should have cleared away any cobwebs and despite being burdened with top weight here he is already proven at a higher level than this. He slammed Wakanda in a Grade Two event at Doncaster last spring and it wouldn’t be the biggest of shocks if he were to extend the good record of top-weights in this particular race.
Colin Tizzard is a dab hand at winning this race and has done so three out of the last four years courtesy of Hey Big Spender. He sends Masters Hill into battle this afternoon and he was only beaten a neck on his return from an eight month hiatus. Like the selection he is fully entitled to improve for that run and a big effort looks likely. Wakanda returned to winning ways at Wetherby last month but in fairness he probably didn’t have much to beat. Fago and Off The Ground haven’t really advertised that form and a place looks the best he can hope for here.
Harry Cobden is able to claim seven pounds off Virak and he has ridden three winners from his last four rides. Connections will be hoping for a clear round and with stamina proven on rain softened ground this combination looks the one that they all have to beat.
3-40 HENNESSY COGNAC GOLD CUP (GRADE 3 HANDICAP) – 3 MILES 1 F 214YDS
Bob’s Worth looked a rejuvenated character when outstaying stablemate Simonsig in the Betfred Hurdle at Aintree last month. This former Hennessy and Cheltenham Gold Cup winner may have gotten a little older but he definitely showed that plenty of ability still remained under what was an inspired ride from Nico De Boinville last time. As a result of his spell in the wilderness he has dropped almost two stone in the ratings and commands utmost respect in a field which contains plenty of ordinary handicappers. Being an out and out stayer, the ground ought not to inconvenience this ten year old and there will hardly be a dry eye in the house if he can repeat his victory of 2012.
The Young Master is certainly on the upgrade and made giant strides throughout the whole of last season. He was not overly pushed on his seasonal reappearance behind Saphir Du Rheu at Carlisle a few weeks ago and he is likely to show significant improvement this afternoon. He also receives another five pounds from his conqueror today and that could be enough to swing things in his favour this time around. Saphir De Rheu is a useful chaser but in his three previous visits to this track he has failed to trouble the judge. There appears to be far better value in several rivals and he has to be opposed here. Richard Johnson was eager to do his minimum weight to ride Fingal Bay when Coneygree was still in the race at the beginning of the week. With his defection that didn’t have to occur and his mount has to have a serious each way squeak here.
Bob’s Worth comes from a stable that has farmed this particular race throughout the years and they will be hopeful that their ten year old can return to somewhere near his best. If he does he ought to prove far too good for this field.
SATURDAY 1-15 NEWBURY SHANGANI (E/W)
SATURDAY 2-40 NEWCASTLE VIRAK
SATURDAY 3-40 NEWBURY BOB’S WORTH