After the frenetic pace of last weeks Cheltenham Festival, (hope you got on our selection, Moon Racer, in the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper) racing this week is of a more pedestrian nature. Newbury stages some competitive looking racing, not least the Doombar Novices Hurdle at 3.45, while North of the border, at Kelso the Brewers John Smith sponsor a valuable and intriguing novices handicap chase at 3.25. Paul Nicholls is the only trainer represented on Saturday to have won the Newbury contest over the past decade, although both Alan King, and Venetia Williams have had runners placed. The Nicholl’s contender this year, Celestino, has been generally dissappointing and as he is 5lbs out of the handicap at the time of writing is passed over.
The Alan King trained Gimme Five is of considerable interest. Rated 67 on the flat, he has won two of his five starts over hurdles, both times on good ground. Last time out ( Huntingdon 2m1/2f gd Oct 5 ) he made most of the running and had to be kept up to his work to win by 3/4L. In his previous race ( Fontwell 2m21/2f ) he may have been a tad unlucky as he lost a shoe, when going down by 3/4L to the useful Vosne Romanee. Both the Fontwell race and his ability to stay 2miles on the flat ( 2nd btn 3/4L Lingfield 2m Feb 2. ) would suggest that he will be well suited by Saturday’s step up in trip. With the benefit of the Lingfield pipe opener in Febuary, he is Definitley one for the shortlist.
Andrew Balding’s Shirocco gelding Storm Force Ten, rated 83 on the flat, looks well treated off a mark of 123. Last time out ( Cheltenham 2m1f soft 24 Jan ) he finished a running on 4th behind Peace and Co, Karezak, and Zarib. Although 12 1/2L behind the winner, the very useful Zarib, was only 1/2 in advance at the line. As Peace and Co went on to victory in the Triumph, and Zarib won his next race the form looks rock solid. On a point of handicapping Zarib finished a good 6th in the Fred Winter at the Festival of a mark of 133, suggesting that the Balding horse is well in here off 123.
Philip Hobbs’s Golden Doyen, was going well behind the leaders, when coming down in the Fred Winter, eight days ago. He races off the same mark,141, on Saturday and so, on the form of his penultimate race ( 17Jan Ascot 2m soft ) where he was a staying on 2nd to the Triumph runner up, Top Notch, combined with the strong likelihood of being suited by the extra distance at the weekend he is another to consider.
Seamus Mullins runs his 72 flat rated Ultimate off a mark of 123 and promises to be a decent recruit to jumping. A winner of two of his three starts over hurdles he put up a fine performance last time out. ( Sandown 2m1/2f gd/sft 7th Mar.) where staying on strongly up the Sandown hill he beat Libeccio 4L with the well backed favourite Princess Ombu (rec15lbs) a further 2 3/4L back in third. He races on Saturday off a mark only 5lbs higher than Sandown giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 8lbs. Another to consider!
Selection: Storm Force Ten.
E.W. : Ultimate.