1-15 TIMEFORM NOVICES’ HANDICAP CHASE – 2 M 4 F 166 YDS
Viva Steve has made the frame in nine of his fifteen career starts and seems to be as good as ever this season. He beat off the likes of Auvergnat and Set List to win on his seasonal appearance at Market Rasen before finding only a rejuvenated The Last Samurai too strong at Kempton in December. The front two pulled some fourteen lengths clear of the remainder of their field indicating that the form could turn out to be quite useful and he has to rate high on any shortlist this afternoon.
Un Temps Pour Tout has always been held in high regard by David Pipe and he should arrive here in excellent condition. He may well have needed his first two runs this season but there were definite signs of encouragement at Newbury last time, where he only just tired in the closing stages. Tom Scudamore is likely to take it a bit slower on him this afternoon and despite top weight, the combination looks a massive threat. Kings Odyssey built upon his seasonal reappearance when running out a comfortable winner at Wincanton on Boxing Day. Evan Williams continues to do well with whatever he runs and they have place prospects here.
Viva Steve is partnered by Gavin Sheehan for the first time this afternoon but he is riding a horse with absolutely no stamina concerns on this trip. The son of Flemensfirth has been won over further in the past and can make the frame today.
2-40 ALBERT BARTLETT NOVICES HURDLE (GRADE 2) – 3 MILES 96 YDS
Barters Hill was an impressive winner of the Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury last month and he pulled some twelve lengths clear of the younger Politilogue in order to keep his unbeaten record intact. That was his first attempt at two and a half miles and he saw it out with ease. The further they went, the better he looked, and it is of little surprise to see connections up him in distance once again.
Up For Review survived a slog in the mud at Punchestown earlier in the month and was equally impressive. He pulled some thirteen lengths clear of Jetstream Jack but his poorest efforts to date have come when there has been sign of good in the going description and that could be the difference here this afternoon. Paul Townend has also never ridden him in a competitive race before and that could prove a massive disadvantage. Ballydine, Ephraim and Minella Charmer will have to produce something out of the top drawer in order to trouble the main protagonists and they look sure to battle it out for third place.
Barters Hill has been partnered in all of his starts bar one by David Bass and so he knows the full capabilities of this improving six-year-old. They will need to win this in order to cement their place at the head of the market for the Cheltenham Festival and with the ground likely to suit him he can make it seven wins on the bounce.
3-15 SKYBET CHASE (LISTED HANDICAP) – 3 MILES 6 YDS
Court By Surprise made a pleasing seasonal reappearance when last seen contesting a handicap at Chepstow back in October. The form has been boosted by a few that finished in behind him on that occasion including Mountainous, Houston Dynamo and Pineau De Rea. As he is an eleven-year-old now he is not out as regularly as he once was but he clearly retains plenty of ability and can go well fresh.
Holywell has won off higher ratings than this in the past and he was good enough to finish fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last season. The Jonjo O’Neill yard has been a bit quiet of late and whilst that is a concern, this nine-year-old could definitely play a part in the final outcome if putting his best foot forward. Aachen has been in excellent form this season and gets on well with young Charlie Deutsch. The duo dotted up in a decent handicap at Cheltenham back in December and were only just caught by the narrowest of margins at Sandown last time. If turning up here in similar form they will prove hard to catch.
Daryl Jacob keeps the ride on Court By Surprise and the veteran ought to appreciate the likely good to soft ground. He is one of a few runners that are proven over this course and distance and he can make the most of the weight he receives from some younger rivals to have a say in the closing stages.
|SATURDAY 1-15 CHELTENHAM||VIVA STEVE (E/W)|
|SATURDAY 2-40 DONCASTER||BARTERS HILL|
|SATURDAY 3-15 DONCASTER||COURT BY SURPRISE (E/W)|