With racing’s major focus concentrated on Leopardstown’s “Dublin Racing Festival” this weekend, the UK’s most interesting offering is north of the border, where the award winning seaside course of Musselburgh, stages the Edinburgh National. The track usually provides some of the best winter ground available anywhere in these islands and connections of course specialist, Wonderful Charm, will be hoping that his preferred, decent ground, again prevails at the weekend.
Now a 12yo, the previous Grade2 winning chaser, (rated as high as 159 in the past) has made a real success of his reinvention as a Hunter Chaser, winning 5 of his 9 starts, including both times (2017 and 2018) he has competed in the race in that discipline, on Saturday’s Card. The fact that he hasn’t been on a racecourse since winning at Stratford 246 days ago is of little concern as he has won 4 times following a break, and we can be pretty sure that master trainer, Paul Nicholls, will have the son of Poliglote ready to go. Racing off a mark of 137, with his part owner, the excellent amateur, Sam Waley-Cohen taking another 3lbs off, he looks one to be interested in.
Since changing ownership, and transferring to Dan Skelton’s Warwickshire yard last May, the career of the 8yo, Very First Time, has undergone something of a renaissance. Having failed to win or been placed in 9 runs for Tim Easterby since winning at Newcastle in December 2017, he has now won 3 of his 6 starts for the Alcester handler, and really caught the eye when winning at Doncaster last Saturday. Out the back, and seemingly under pressure five fences out, his prospects looked fairly bleak, but two fences later was travelling like the winner, and taking it up at the last went away for a very comfortable 6L win. He is 7lbs higher in a better race on Saturday, and his pedigree wouldn’t inspire huge confidence, (out of a sprinting bred mare) that racing over 4m1f was ideal, but there is no denying that the further he went last week the better he travelled. He is in the ownership of a partnership, (The Can’t Say No) led by one of the shrewdest and luckiest in the game, (Marmo) and it will come as no surprise whatever if connections are seen yet again, in their customary post race pose, ordering lashings of “Bubbly” on Saturday afternoon.
The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Little Bruce, stayed on well to win a Catterick marathon over 3m6f (Soft) by 3L from Saturday’s opponent, Sumkindofking 22 days ago. He meets the runner up on 6lbs worse terms on Saturday and it could be close between them, but having won over 3m6 1/2f at Huntingdon, (right handed like Musselburgh) with his head in his chest last March, and being by the four times Gold Cup winner Yeats, Philip Kirby’s 8yo has much the stronger staying profile, and is preferred.
The Warren Greatrex trained Bob Mahler comfortably beat Little Bruce by 7L in a
3m1 1/2f Cheltenham Handicap last April and meets the Kirby horse on 3lbs better terms. However, perhaps too much shouldn’t be read into that result as the runner up never looked comfortable on Prestbury Park’s undulations, and is clearly much more at home on a flat track. It’s also worth noting that the Greatrex animal has never won going right handed, and has never raced beyond 3m1 1/2f.
Richard Hobson’s 8yo, Chic Name, has run well in his last two races, both over Cheltenham’s Cross Country Course, finishing 4/15 and 3/10 and a reproduction of his effort when winning a 3m6 1/2f Perth Handicap in April 2018 off a mark of 126 would make him a serious threat. 2 years older, and a more mature animal, he is only 2 lbs higher on Saturday, and with the talented and inform Jonathan Burke doing the steering, with a nice racing weight of 10-10, is another to definitely be interested in.
Michael Scudamore’s 9yo Some Chaos confirmed earlier impressions that staying was to be his game when landing a 3m2f Kelso Handicap off a mark of 138 by 2 1/2L from the now 150 rated Blue Flight. The son of St Leger winner, Brian Boru, failed to make any impression in The Ladbroke Trophy last time but could be a different proposition if getting his preferred good ground on Saturday. However he has quite a task with the steadier of 11-11 on his back.
If Co Meath trainer, Dermot Mc Loughlin sends his 8yo, Freewheelin Dylan over, take note! A winner of 4 of his 14 starts over fences, (3 of them going right handed). He did well to win over an inadequate 2m6f at Punchestown (Soft) in November off a mark of 130 and back over a staying trip, (had some interesting form in staying hurdles) on Good ground is worth considering.
Selection : Little Bruce
EW. : Chic Name