Tuesday sees the start of Newmarket’s three-day Craven Meeting and on Friday Newbury gets in on the act with the two-day Greenham Meeting. There should be plenty of classic clues on show but more importantly, both meetings will offer plenty of horses for your notebooks. This is the week when the flat season really kicks into gear and I can’t wait. Hopefully, the weather stays dry and let’s settle down to enjoy the action.
The jumps season may be heading into the final furlong but there is still some great racing for National Hunt aficionados to enjoy with The Scottish Grand National at Ayr this Saturday. The Punchestown Festival next week and Bet365 Gold Cup Day at Sandown, which brings the curtain down on the 2016-17 National Hunt season so before looking at this week’s eyecatchers I thought I would take a brief look at Saturday’s Coral Scottish Grand National.
Coral Scottish Grand National Eyecatchers – Possible Runners
There is a good chance that two of our recent eyecatchers the Nicky Richards-trained Looking Well and Doing Fine trained by Neil Mulholland will take their chance in this year’s race.
Looking Well – Ignore the 8-year-olds run in the Grimthorpe Chase on his last start he was never really travelling on the soft ground. He is better judged on his running on 2nd to Ziga Boy on good ground at Doncaster. The 4m trip should suit but he does need good ground to be at his best – 2 wins from 5 run’s 4 places on good or quicker ground!
Doing Fine – Was an excellent 2nd in the London Grand National at Sandown over 3m 5f two starts back and wasn’t disgraced when 2nd under top weight at Wincanton 27 days ago. Soft ground isn’t a problem for the 9-year-old although connections may wait a week and save the horse for the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown then following Saturday.
Both should go well if they get their conditions but another that I have had in my notebook since the start of the season for this race is Arpege D’Alene trained by Paul Nicholls. Who would be suited by good to soft ground or better? The 7-year-old has only an Aintree novice chase to his name but he ran well on all his four starts since that win and last time out was 4th in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. In the past ten years all three novices to win this race had run in that race including last year’s winner Vicente, also trained by Paul Nicholls, who will also likely take his chance after coming down at the first fence at Aintree. Trainer Paul Nicholls has had this race in mind since the autumn and he’s pretty much guaranteed to run with Sean Bowen booked for the ride.
Ante Post – Coral Scottish Grand National – Arpege D’Alene – 12/1 with sponsors Coral
Watch For Nicholls Runners Returning From A Break
Whilst on the subject of Paul Nicholls he really does like to target these two days at Ayr. Since 2012 he has had 12 winners at the meeting and if we focus in on his runners returning from a 31 to 75-day break he is – 9 winners from 20 runners 45% +39.5 A/E 2.34 11 placed 55%
This Weeks Eyecatchers
This week I have four horses that are worth putting in your trackers.
Monday 10th April
Fields of Fortune – Richard Hannon – The three-year-old was well backed prior to making his handicap debut in this class 5 handicap and was sent off at odds of 15/8. Sadly he was slowly away and didn’t get the best of runs when trying to make his effort at the furlong marker and could only finish 5th at the finish. Had shown ability on two of his three starts as a two-year-old and this run plus the market expectations suggest he can win a modest handicap in the coming weeks. Looks suited by good or quicker ground but has to break quicker from the stalls than he did here.
Friday 14th April
Paddy Power – Richard Fahey – Came up against a well-handicapped rival here when finishing 2nd in this 6f Class 4 handicap but did finish clear of the rest. Starts this season off on a handy mark and is 10lb lower than when a 1 ½ length 3rd in a class 3 handicap at York last May. Only win came in a maiden race at Chelmsford last season but he has run well enough on decent ground on turf to suggest that he can win a handicap over 5f when all the cards fall right for him.
Saturday 15th April
Velvet Revolution – Marco Botti – This year’s Queen’s Prize handicap was run at a modest pace and so being held up at the back wasn’t the position to be in. The four-year-old did best of those held up when a staying 4th at the finish. In the circumstances, his performance in getting within 4 lengths of the winner can be marked up. A very impressive winner at Chelmsford on his previous start back in November he was put up 12lb for that run but on the evidence of this run can still be competitive off his new mark of 85. Has only had 8 career starts, three on turf, and just two over 2m so his progress may not have levelled out just yet.
Indian Blessing – Ed Walker – The filly was perhaps surpassingly well backed prior to the race given she was the lowest rated on Official Ratings of the seven-strong field. But she repaid market support with a running on 3rd here. Her dam won over 1m 2f & 1m4f and her half brother won over 1m 4f on the flat and 2m 4f over hurdles so there is enough stamina on the female side to think she might stay a bit further on pedigree. Will be interesting to see how the handicapper reacts after this. All three of her career starts have come on the all weather but should prove just as effective on turf on decent ground.
All that’s left is to wish you an enjoyable week’s punting and a very Happy Easter