Grade One experience gives Bristol De Mai the edge at Kelso
The Cheltenham Festival begins on Tuesday week so as usual at this time of the year, good quality National Hunt racing is thin on the ground.
Nonetheless, there would appear to be some good opportunities to earn some cash at Doncaster and Kelso this afternoon, although I must admit that I'm on a bit of a recovery mission having lost a fair amount of money on Grandeur in the Lingfield Winter Derby Trial last week. I won't go into the gory details here but the stake, suffice to say, was big enough that I kept the docket hidden from the missus.
He was squeezed out into fourth in a tight finish but I'm not making excuses and I hold my hands up and admit I called it wrong. The winner, Grendisar, now heads the market for the actual Winter Derby (March 14) but the trial will have sharpened up Grandeur a little. Although I risk following him over a cliff, I'm not ruling out backing him again.
Anyhow, that's for another day and there are more pressing issues at hand such as the Grade Two totescoop6 Premier Kelso Novice Hurdle (3.0), which has shaped up to be a very decent race. With three wins on the trot, Glingerburn stands out on the racecard and is now unbeaten over hurdles following success in a minor event at this course earlier on in the month.
Certainly, he's progressive and has strong claims here at 11/4 but preference is for Bristol De Mai (15/8), which has proven Group One form having won a juvenile race at that level at Chepstow just after Christmas.
Formerly housed with respected French handler Guillaume Macaire, the gelding also won a reasonably competitive newcomers race at Auteuil in September, although he was a bit disappointing against some older horses last time when third out of four runners in a Listed hurdle at Sandown.
He raced a bit too keenly on that occasion and it's my view that he'll improve even more over time. Intense Tango is also worth a mention following her win in a Grade Two mares' race at Doncaster in January but the fact that Bristol De Mai has won a Grade One in the past gives him the edge.
Earlier on, A Doll In Milan is opposable at 2/1 in the BetBright Cheltenham Festival Fund Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Doncaster (2.35). Perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy takes the reins for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but the five-year-old made absolutely no impact in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las off an opening mark of 131, and was pulled up when she began to weaken. The novice race she won previously was uncompetitive and I'm surprised to see her so short in the betting today.
Instead, Princess Tara gets the nod at 5/2. The Peter Bowen-trained five-year-old appears to have plenty of stamina and was able to kick on nicely in heavy ground to draw clear and win a handicap hurdle for mares at Ffos Las a couple of weeks ago, so the step up to three miles should not prove troublesome for this daughter of Kayf Tara.
That win came soon after a maiden hurdle victory at the same venue and she's progressed every time that she's raced over timber. Ideally, the ground would be a little bit softer but there's nothing to say she won't act on good and you'd have to fancy her to go close.
Of the rest, Balmusette looks the danger horse at around 7/2. A bumper winner in July 2013, Keith Reveley's charge broke her duck over hurdles at Catterick last December and while she disappointed next time out at Haydock, she showed her true colours when chasing home the in-form Dewala at Doncaster last time.
Westward Point's mark of 129 looks a little low and I reckon he can take advantage in today's Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.25 Newbury), priced around 10/1.
Warren Greatrex's gelding was last seen in December 2013 winning a handicap chase at the first time of asking, but has been sidelined with a leg problem. Physically, his trainer reckons he's in a good place and this imposing sort remains unexposed.
2.35 Doncaster: Princess Tara
3.00 Kelso: Bristol De Mai
3.25 Newbury: Westward Point (e/w)
3.30 Lingfield: Gold Trail
3.50 Leopardstown: Snooze
4.10 Kelso: Cloudy Too