Saturday 24 March 2018

Sego to foil Samuri's Doncaster repeat

King's charge looks equipped for 'Success' by seizing on weight concession

The Tom George-trained Behind The Wire, with Paddy Brennan up, jumps the water on his way to winning the Agetur UK Steeple Chase at Newbury. Photo: Adam Davy/PA
The Tom George-trained Behind The Wire, with Paddy Brennan up, jumps the water on his way to winning the Agetur UK Steeple Chase at Newbury. Photo: Adam Davy/PA

Johnny Wardon

ITV presenter Ed Chamberlin is among those set to take part in an experiment at this year's Cheltenham Festival.

Bookmaker Sky Bet has set up a heart-rate test to see who gets most excited when watching the opening Supreme Novices' Hurdle, which it sponsors. Today's racing on Chamberlin's channel would not be quite so suitable for what might be a PR exercise but at least it is a pioneering one.

ITV's coverage is like a football team patched together in a rush - it will need time - and afternoons like this afford Chamberlin and his team a chance to get more comfortable working together ahead of the channel's first Cheltenham since taking over from Channel 4.

With the Festival just ten days away, not many horses running today have any pretensions to glory. Newbury stages some competitive fare, not least the Betway Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Chase.

As is generally the case in these British handicap chases of a certain quality, bookmakers like them as they take place on a Saturday yet are arguably poor races to bet on. This race is a little different, in that it has a progressive novice in Oldgrangewood, and he is taken to overcome the 9lb rise which he received for winning at Wetherby, his second successive success there.

The William Hill "High 5" Supporting Greatwood Handicap Hurdle sees the veteran Melodic Rendezvous shoulder top weight. Dropping back in distance here will be to the aid of Chesterfield, which was not disgraced behind Champion Hurdle fancy Brain Power before not getting home behind Modus in another smart handicap.

There is quite a classy handicap chase at the same venue. Vic De Touzaine is one of quite a few consistent sorts in the race and, with conditions no issue, he has an each-way chance. Venetia Williams has her horses in superb form and there are plenty of positives.

Live coverage commences at Doncaster and the cameramen will be hopeful that conditions are not as murky as they were yesterday, when some of the later races took place under ominously grey clouds.

Point The Way has cheekpieces for the first time and is of some interest in the BetBright Casino Handicap Hurdle. He was not quite at his best at Wetherby, and is of more intrigue on his form around this time last year.

The handicap chase could be deeper for the grade and a chance is taken on Workbench back over fences. His trainer, Dan Skelton, was the special guest at a Moate Cheltenham preview event last night, so there could be some interest in betting offices around the midlands in the son of Network this morning.

Perhaps the Listed mares' novice hurdle was of some attraction for Irish trainers seeking "black type" - which makes a mare more valuable at stud - but no raider takes her chance. Taws, such a classy sort on the level, is a hopeful pick now. She has no Finian's Oscar to worry about here, having chased him in vain at Exeter.

Kerry Lee has a strong favourite in Happy Diva, which is rated 133 and is quite a dour stayer. On her Flat form, Taws ought to certainly improve for today's sort of test too, though it does not always work out as such.

Televised action concludes with Doncaster's staying handicap chase, the weights headed by last year's winner and leading Grand National fancy The Last Samuri.

"He likes a small field, really. He's a front-runner so he'll probably be out there in front. I'd be happy with that. The size of the field isn't a major issue. He's an experienced handicapper," trainer Kim Bailey said.

Sego Success is getting lumps of weight off The Last Samuri and perhaps a visor will do the trick for the horse trained by Alan King, who is anxious to be told who rides Yanworth at Cheltenham.

Watching Brief . . .

Willie Mullins' Cheltenham Festival yard visit on Monday was illuminating and offered valuable insight into his views on some of his horses that remain hard to weigh up.

The word “machine” was used to assess Carter Mckay, which is favourite for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, while the discussion about the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle was also noteworthy.

Bunk Off Early was second in the Deloitte, having moved like a winner, and in recent weeks he has been well-backed for the race. However, when asked if Ruby Walsh would have a tough decision between the grey and Melon, Mullins pretty much dismissed that notion.

Melon, just like Min prior to the same race 12 months ago, took a major walk in the market on the exchanges last Saturday but there is evidently nothing wrong with him. He reportedly did a superb piece of work last week.

Mullins clearly thinks a great deal of the horse, which goes to the Festival after merely one run over hurdles, winning a moderate maiden.

Irish Independent

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