Doctor possesses right remedy for Doncaster
There are few finer sights than a herd of two-mile chasers in full flight. And with the rare prospect of some decent ground at Doncaster this afternoon, the Blue Square Handicap Chase (3.25) should be something to warm the heart.
To watch horses slogging through the mud has been a soul-searching experience of late. It has resembled a war of attrition, often won by the last horse standing. We should all therefore rejoice that 15 runners in the Town Moor feature have a surface on which they can demonstrate the better virtues of the winter game.
Many people's search for the winner will stop with Free World, which represents the Paul Nicholls/Ruby Walsh axis. There was certainly much to admire in the way he rallied from an early blunder to chase home French Opera at Cheltenham last time.
That come-from-behind effort was untypical of this free-running chaser. It may have unlocked the door to a natural talent that has flattered to deceive in the past but, with a fierce gallop on this flat track assured, Free World's habit of clouting the odd fence is not reassuring.
In contrast to Tartak, whose stable is out of sorts, Leo's Lucky Star has been laid out for this by the in-form David Pipe. However, the eight-year-old will do extremely well to win this competitive heat with a solitary outing over fences in his repertoire.
Pepsyrock and Oiseau de Nuit are on the upgrade, the latter in particular, yet both horses have rapidly climbed the weights for winning lesser races. They may be overburdened with the gun now to their heads.
One which appeals at a big price is Doctor David, which often gives trouble at the start but whose demeanour is otherwise trustworthy. He ran as though his best was imminent in a hot conditions chase at Kempton last time, and equally encouraging for his prospects was his sterling effort when runner-up in this race 12 months ago.
On that day he failed by less than three lengths to contain the Nicholls-trained I'msingingtheblues, which gave him 3lbs. Doctor David now meets that rival on 11lbs better terms at a venue where he has been successful in the past. At a best-priced 16/1, he is the value call.
BHA policy devalues rescheduled chase
It had to happen. No sooner were we savouring a novices' chase of unusual interest than the very prospect was strangled at declaration time. In the process, it highlighted the perils of the British Horseracing Authority's (BHA) policy to reschedule races lost to the weather.
Today's two-mile Lightning Novices' Chase (2.25) is carried over from Doncaster's abandoned fixture last week, when Nicky Henderson had declared both Mad Max and You're The Top. With the promise of Henrietta Knight's Somersby joining in, there was good reason to salvage a race worth £30,000.
In doing so, however, the BHA should have scrapped the scheduled novices' chase (1.20) over two miles, three furlongs. It didn't -- and you can probably guess the rest. Somersby is a late defector, You're The Top is diverted to the lesser contest and we are left with another race unbecoming of the prize-money.
Henderson has found equally easy pickings in a pair of Grade One races at Sandown today.
His Binocular confronts two opponents in the £25,000 Contenders Hurdle, while Punchestowns faces four in the £47,500 Scilly Isles Novices' Chase. Nothing better illustrates the phoney war ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
hopes for Cooldine return to top form
Once again, English trainers are conspicuous by their absence in numbers from some compelling racing at Leopardstown tomorrow.
Only Nicky Richards has accepted the challenge by sending Money Trix for a Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, in which the grey bids to confirm his superiority over most of this cast when runner-up in the Lexus Chase over Christmas.
Joncol got closest to Money Trix, which overhauled Paul Nolan's chaser on the run-in, but the Richards runner will do well to confirm those placings if Joncol is ridden with more restraint.
Even then, however, Joncol would struggle to contain a back-to-form Cooldine. It would be welcome indeed to see Willie Mullins' remorseless galloper return to something like his best.