Ease your post-Festival blues with a punt on Hill
FOLLOWING four days of absolutely top-class racing at the Cheltenham Festival, it's slightly depressing to flick through today's fixture list in which not a single graded race is scheduled.
We are certainly back to basics today although money earned from betting at Uttoxeter buys exactly the same amount of pints of stout as money earned from Cheltenham and a nice winner or two today would certainly help ease the sense of deflation.
We've also got the rugby to look forward to, as well as some decent football matches, so it might not be such a bad day for punters after all.
The feature race of the day is the Betfred Midlands Grand National (3.50 Uttoxeter) for which 18 horses go to post and the one that catches the eye is the David Bridgwater-trained Wyck Hill, which should go off at an each-way price of 8/1 or thereabouts. A 4m1f race is not for the faint-hearted, but the 10-year-old is the sole participant in the field proven at the distance, having won the Eider Chase at Newcastle last month by three-quarters of a length to Smoking Aces.
He had dropped right down to 133 in the ratings beforehand but that Eider victory has seen his mark shoot back up to 141.
That leaves him sitting third in the weights carrying 10st 6lbs this afternoon but his enthusiasm for a heavy slog at Newcastle suggests there's life in the old dog yet and he doesn't seem to have regressed with age.
With 10 wins from 16 races, Harry Topper is also highly respected. Kim Bailey's seven-year-old has plenty of stamina and beat Al Ferof in the Denman Chase at Newbury last time, although his jumping can be a bit suspect at times, and I've a feeling that the top-weight burden of 11st 12lbs may be enough to hold him back over this distance.
At Fontwell, West Cork Flash looks overpriced at 7/2 in the 32red Casino Handicap Chase (2.30).
He finished eight lengths behind Itoldyouso in a handicap chase here last month but an aggressive ride by Richard Johnson that day didn't do him any favours. He's been left on the same mark and a more patient ride by Jamie Moore here might just do the trick.
On the all-weather at Wolverhampton, Arrowzone can finally register his first win after eight attempts in the five-runner 32Red.com Median Auction Maiden Stakes (7.40).
He showed some promise when placed in a couple of nurseries on the turf in October and I'm willing to forgive his latest flop at Doncaster in which he finished last of nine runners.
It was clear from the get-go that he wasn't keen to race at all and he was possibly a little tired after a busy late-summer campaign.
That poor showing at Doncaster has been factored into the odds and I reckon 3/1 is not a bad price now that he's had a nice break for the winter. Likely favourite Big Orange (11/10) is sure to present a challenge.
A son of Duke Of Marmalade, Michael Bell's gelding progressed well from his debut when finishing mid-way down the field in a decent enough maiden at Newmarket back in October.
THE ROMFORD PELE is entitled to be favourite for the Kempton Park Betdaq Silver Bowl Handicap Chase (3.30) but this looks quite competitive and Rebecca Curtis' seven-year-old is too short for me at 4/1.
Instead, a chance is taken each-way on 14/1 shot Saved By John from Tim Vaughan's yard. He shaped well after 10 weeks off when fifth in a handicap chase at Chepstow last time out and now eased 2lbs, he's entitled to go close.
2.30 Fontwell: West Cork Flash
3.30 Kempton: Saved By John (e/w)
3.50 Uttoxeter: Wyck Hill (e/w)
4.40 Kempton: Andy Kelly
5.25 Fontwell: Solstice Son
7.10 Wolverhampton: Jaahiez
7.40 Wolverhampton: Arrowzone
Do the double
THE Roger Varian-trained Jaahiez keeps improving with every race and he managed to beat the odds-on Premium Pressure to lose the maiden tag at Lingfield last time.
He's been given a mark of 72 for his first handicap, but he looks like one that can progress and early odds of 4/1 seem generous for the 32Red Handicap at Wolverhampton today (7.10).
FRANCE have beaten Ireland in 11 of the past 14 meetings between the pair and, as we all know, Ireland have a poor record in Paris with just two wins in 42 years.
However, France haven't been firing on all cylinders in this championship and Ireland are tipped to just about edge this evening's encounter at 10/11.
The Irish know that the best way to honour Brian O'Driscoll would be to win the Six Nations, and the sense of occasion can help see them through today.