We’re getting closer to the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals and if you scratch the surface a bit there could be plenty of clues for both this weekend.
I rode Punjabi (2007) and Binocular (2008) to win Saturday’s Adonis Hurdle 1.50pm at Kempton – and even though they were beaten at Cheltenham a month later – they both returned to win Champion Hurdles in 2009 & 2010.
This year Nicky Henderson saddles Charli Parcs and he looks the one to beat. I loved the way he travelled through the race over course and distance at Christmas on his UK debut after coming from a good academy in France and he fairly skipped over those last few hurdles.
Evan Williams’ Evening Hush sets a good standard but paid the penalty for taking on Defi Du Seuil at Chepstow last December. If Charli Parcs has any holes in him, she could be the one to exploit them.
Ideally, you’d like to see Charli Parcs in the Triumph Hurdle against his own age group rather than taking on more battle-hardened, older horses, in the Supreme Novices Hurdle. But JP McManus has a couple of leading contenders for the Triumph so we’ll have to wait and see.
The Novices Chase at 2.25pm has cut up pretty badly with just the four runners. The obvious one is Paul Nicholls’ Frodon. He’s only a five-year-old, but he’s solid and is proven on the good ground we’re likely to get on Saturday.
By the horns
If Sam Twiston-Davies grabs the bull by the horns on Capitaine then the Dovecote Novices Hurdle 3pm is there for the taking. However, if they hold him up, like they did in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, he’ll get beaten.
Now I know there was no shame in going down by five lengths to a very good horse in Neptune Novice Hurdle favourite Finian’s Oscar, but Capitaine looked much more at home when striding on at Ascot before that.
With more pressing tactics he can deliver at Kempton at the expense of Neill Mullholland’s Peter the Mayo Man. This one chased home Lough Derg Spirit at Musselburgh, that Capitaine beat that one eight lengths into fourth at Ascot with his front-running display.
A few Aintree Grand National contenders may start to show their hand more, now that the weights for the world’s most famous race have been published. There’s two races this weekend that could give us a few more pointers in that direction.
I rode Rough Quest to win the great race in 1996 and he actually won the 3m Chase at Kempton 3.35pm on his way there that year.
Venetia Williams’ Aso has been considered a soft-ground horse but a look through his form shows he won a bumper in France on good to firm going. He was a little below par the last time but I still think he’s well handicapped.
Dan Skelton’s THREE MUSKETEERS won a Graduation Chase at Market Rasen over 2m 5f in January and wasn’t too far off the top performers last year, when finishing fourth to Black Hercules in the JLT Chase at Cheltenham.
He steps up in trip here for this big prize and looks to have been primed for it. I’ll take him to win.
Over a cliff
The 4m Eider Chase at Newcastle 2.45pm has boasted a more recent National winner in 2008’s National hero Comply or Die. While I feel like I’m following Shotgun Paddy over a cliff, he did run very well behind this year’s National fancy One For Arthur at Warwick.
He finished second in this race last year off 7lbs higher in the handicap and Emma Lavelle’s horses are in better form this season.