Streamtown to keep up Crawford's strike rate
Stuart Crawford is expected to continue his excellent cross-channel form when he saddles Streamtown in the mares' novice chase at Kelso tomorrow.
In the previous two campaigns, the Larne handler has returned impressive winning percentages of 18pc and 17pc, and Best Legend's narrow triumph at Catterick on Thursday was his fifth of the current season for an 11pc strike rate.
Streamtown is his only runner at the Scottish venue, so that ratio could shortly read even better.
A never-dangerous fourth on her fencing bow over course and distance in the spring, this Bob Back mare scored by 11 lengths on her reappearance at Downpatrick.
She was then unfortunate to unseat her rider when still in contention at Wexford, before finishing a creditable fifth behind Knockfierna in a decent Graded race at Cork.
That kind of form sets the standard here and the trainer's brother Stephen helps to negate a 6lb winner's penalty with his valuable 5lb claim.
Of Streamtown's six rivals, the former John Kiely-trained Araucaria is interesting.
The daughter of Accordion ran her best race for some time when third at Catterick two weeks ago.
If she can build on that, she is probably the one to beat on her third chasing start, but Streamtown's experience might just give her a vital edge.
The only other Irish runner on the card is Seriatim, which represents Crawford's neighbour Roy Wilson.
Third at Downpatrick in December, that one has a squeak in the novice hurdle, but might lack the class of Keith Reveley's Crowning Jewel.
A Carlisle bumper winner in October, the Sulamani gelding has twice been placed over hurdles, latterly staying on to good effect when third in a useful maiden at Catterick. A half-mile step up in trip should be to Crowning Jewel's advantage now.
Outsider to note
Despite recording his sole career win in 28 attempts all of 18 months ago, Red Kingdom warrants each-way support in tomorrow's two-mile chase at Kelso.
Successful in a Perth novice chase at this trip, the Dianne Sayer-trained runner has struggled over further lately and has dropped down to a mark of 101 from a career-high of 117 as a result.
That should give Red Kingdom a chance, as he showed up quite well for a long way when fourth at Newcastle on his most recent outing in November.
Significantly, the second and third home that day have since won four times between them, while the fifth and sixth have also gone on to collect.
Kelso 1.20 - Streamtown
Kelso 1.50 - Crowning Jewel
Kelso 2.20 - Red Kingdom
Navan 2.30 - Are Ya Right Chief
25,000 Extra pounds sterling that will be added to the Grand National prize fund this year, taking the overall pot to £975,000.
74 Combined number of days that the Roberts -- Winston (22) and Cooper (52) -- were banned for whip transgressions on Thursday. Cooper was judged to have struck Elton Fox 15 times more than the permitted eight when winning on the horse last month.
8 The number of consecutive bumpers that Patrick Mullins has won.
Quote of the week
"I must say I'm feeling much better now than I was three or four days ago. I would like to think I'm going in the right direction. But there's no mad rush to be back right now, as I want to be 100pc in body and soul when I do get back with all the major festival meetings in the spring just around the corner." -- AP McCoy, whose quest to beat his previous best of 289 winners went west after he broke ribs at Taunton two weeks ago, in remarkably relaxed form about being sidelined. The 16-time champion, 67 clear in the title race, suggested he may not ride until Cheltenham on January 28.
Three things we
learned this week
1 Quel Esprit and Flemenstar are two serious operators. In maintaining his unbeaten record in completed starts over fences at Thurles on Saturday, Quel Esprit did little more than an exercise canter, but you'd just love to see how he'd fare against something like Quito De La Roque in a soft ground Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
If his fencing problems really are a thing of the past, the sky could be the limit. On the back of his Naas coup the following day, Flemenstar is equally exciting.
No matter how hard Ruby Walsh tried to push him out of his comfort zone on Lambro, Flemenstar didn't flinch. It will be fascinating to see how he fares in the Arkle in a fortnight.
2 Italian racing is in a bad place. With all the stakeholders striking in protest at dramatic cuts to the game's funding, no racing has taken place in Italy this year.
In 2011, there was reckoned to be a near €200m deficit in the revenue generated by the Tote and that which the country's racing authority spent, leaving one commentator to describe the system as "effectively bankrupt."
On Thursday, 600 people marched on government buildings. Incredibly, there are genuine fears that the game could actually disappear off the radar there.
3 Sam Twiston-Davies has 'naturalised' Aidan Coleman and Richie McLernon. In a column this week, the jockey named his seven go-karting companions. As well as Coleman and McLernon, Carl Llewellyn, Ryan Hatch, Gerry Galligan, Alain 'Squeaky' Cawley and Maurice Linehan were on the team, and 'STD' noted how "the three Irish boys -- Gerry, Squeaky and Maurice -- were lethal."
Coleman is from Innishannon and McLernon from Churchtown, both of which are in Cork.
Monday: Plumpton, Wolverhampton (AW)
Tuesday: Ayr, Fakenham, Folkestone
Wednesday: Kempton* (AW), Lingfield (AW), Newbury, Southwell
Thursday: Thurles, Lingfield, Ludlow, Taunton, Wolverhampton* (AW)
Friday: Dundalk* (AW), Catterick, Chepstow, Lingfield (AW), Wolverhampton* (AW)
Saturday: Naas, Ascot, Haydock, Lingfield (AW), Wincanton
Sunday: Fairyhouse, Kempton (AW), Market Rasen, Towcester