Saint Are to answer Vaughan's prayers
Tomorrow's Matalan Novices' Chase at Aintree promises to be an informative affair.
While there are just seven runners in the race, only a couple could be discounted with any conviction. On previous form, though, Astracad, Bear's Affair and Saint Are appear to be the three to focus on.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Astracad is the only one of that trio with chasing experience, having won in good style at Perth last month. That is sure to stand to him around what is a tricky course for novices, but he may struggle under a penalty.
Bear's Affair, which represents Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy, comes here with a flawless record. A bumper winner this time last year, he went on to canter up in a pair of hurdle races, though this is a much better race than he has contested before.
All told, then, Saint Are may be the one to side with for an in-form Tim Vaughan. A steady improver over flights last term, the five-year-old caused a bit of shock when recording a Grade One triumph at Aintree in April.
Following that, he ran poorly at Punchestown and, while he may not be quite the bona fide Grade One campaigner, neither is he as bad as his outing in Kildare suggested. The truth of the matter is that his true capabilities probably lie somewhere in between, and that could be enough here if he fences fluently.
Also fancied at the Liverpool track is Riguez Dancer in the two-mile chase. Course and distance winner Silk Drum will be popular, but has it all to do under a big burden.
Riguez Dancer gets in off a very fair 11st 1lb for Ferdy Murphy and Graham Lee and he is a horse that may be up to winning off his current mark of 134.
Successful off 125 last term, he wrapped up that campaign with an encouraging second at Cheltenham off 129, so average improvement on that should see him go close.
Outsider to note
at decent odds, Kahfre could run well in the opening handicap hurdle at Wincanton tomorrow.
A winner on his jumping bow a year ago, Gary Moore's four-year-old subsequently failed to get his head in front in five more outings last term. Indeed, he looked to have completely fallen out of love with the game on his last couple of starts.
However, his reappearance third at Chepstow recently was much more encouraging. If it is the case that Kahfre is finding his form again, he could prove to be well handicapped now that he has the benefit of a run under his belt.
Wincanton 2.15 -- Kahfre
Aintree 2.35 -- Saint Are
Aintree 3.45 -- Riguez Dancer
Galway 2.40 -- Leave Him Alone
51 The official number of lengths that Australia Day was deemed to have won by after a spectacular round of fencing at Kempton on Sunday.
11 Davy Russell's current lead in the jump jockeys' championship following a haul of seven winners in 10 days.
3 The number of different riders that were aboard for Aidan O'Brien's three winners at Navan on Wednesday. As has been the case for much of the season, Colm O'Donoghue, Seamie Heffernan and Joseph O'Brien were all on the mark for the Ballydoyle supremo.
Quote of the week
"He got a 20lb penalty for Cork and I suppose you could say this is his redundancy payment!" -- Eddie Lynam ponders Fred Fenster's future after his three-year-old won with a five-pound penalty at Navan before the full wrath of the handicapper kicked in.
Three things we
learned this week
1 The British Horseracing Authority went some way to correcting the injustices of the new whip regulations yesterday. Gone is the limit of five strikes in the closing stages, while jockeys no longer face the threat of losing their basic riding fee. They could still forfeit their purse percentage, but only for more serious offences, which the ruling authority obviously feels will discourage the worst offences on the biggest days. Jump jockeys rightly maintain that the fact that they can only use the whip eight times, just once more than in a five-furlong Flat race, remains a glaring anomaly. Progress, then, but we are unlikely to have heard the last of this issue yet.
2 A week can be a long time in the life of a jump jockey. Seven days after becoming just the third rider in modern times to go through the card at a point-to-point, Jamie Codd was brought back down to earth with a bang when a fall at Kilsheelan on Sunday left him with a broken leg.
Five times a runner-up to Derek O'Connor in the coveted point-to-point riders' championship, his misfortune was compounded by O'Connor landing six of the seven races at Loughrea the same day. The joys of it.
3 The Dundalk 25-minute experiment looks doomed to fail. Scepticism about whether it would be a sufficient gap between races abounded since the plan was revealed some months ago, and it proved well founded on the very first trial. Of the four races supposed to go off after the lesser interval, the best result was an eight-minute delay, the worst a whopping 21 minutes. Hard to see how it has any hope of working now.
Monday: Leicester, Redcar, Southwell (AW).
Tuesday: Catterick, Chepstow, Yarmouth.
Wednesday: Punchestown, Haydock, Kempton* (AW), Musselburgh, Nottingham .
Thursday: Clonmel, Fontwell, Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Stratford.
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Newmarket, Uttoxeter, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Saturday: Naas, Ascot, Ayr, Newmarket, Wetherby, Wolverhampton* (AW).
Sunday: Leopardstown, Wexford, Carlisle, Huntingdon.