Today’s FREE Horse racing tips: The Betting Spy’s top picks for Saturday’s racing at Newbury and Newcastle
IT looks likely to be Patrick’s Day at Newbury, three months early, in the Ladbrokes Trophy (3.00).
THOMAS PATRICK ticks all the boxes for this traditionally red-hot handicap chase, which will be the ‘Hennessy’ to most of us for many years yet.
Thomas Patrick looks tailor made for the Ladbrokes TrophyGetty Images – Getty
This is a race that suits progressive second-season chasers and Thomas Patrick has had just five runs over fences, winning three, including a hugely impressive success at Aintree on Grand National day.
He runs off 9lb higher now but he improved again on his reappearance when just pipped by Elegant Escape at Sandown.
The winner should go well again but he is 5lb worse off with the runner-up so will not find it easy.
Thomas Patrick’s jumping is a real asset and he will relish this test. He loves to race up with the pace and Richard Johnson rides such types so well. The recent rain is in his favour, in fact the softer the better.
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The same is true for Ms Parfois, who has no stamina worries having been just touched off in the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival.
She should have a good season but this is very difficult to win without a prep race – she could be one for the Welsh National at the end of the month.
Dingo Dollar, another second-season chaser, has had a run – and a very promising one it was when fourth at this track over hurdles. He could reward each-way backers.
American was well-fancied for this race 12 months ago when he flopped but he then ran second in the Cotswold Chase and, if he could regain his best form of two seasons ago, would have a squeak.
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His young Irish rider, Aine O’Connor, is good value for her 5lb claim and American is worth a market check.
Beware The Bear is fairly treated on his reappearance win last season but failed to match that run subsequently so is probably one to beware.
But The Young Master, although he seems to have been around for ever, is still Young enough at nine and was impressive when winning at Cheltenham two weeks ago.
He is 3lb well-in under his penalty and is not out of things.
The Young Master impressed at CheltenhamGetty Images – Getty
Earlier SPEEDO BOY can land the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at 1.50.
He won far more easily than the length winning distance implies at Cheltenham last time and a 6lb rise does not look enough to prevent a follow up.
He still looks chucked in on his solid form in top-class Flat handicaps and he has more to offer at the winter game.
Champ looked as though he could be well-named when winning his novice hurdles very easily but they were weak events (long odds-on both times) and he may not yet be ready for the hustle of big-field handicaps.
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In the Gerry Feilden Hurdle (2.25) there is plenty right about WHATSWRONGWITHYOU.
He won two quality novice events over this course and distance last season with something to spare and was then pitched into top open handicap company in Sandown’s Imperial Cup.
He met trouble in running there before staying on to be third of 17 to Mr Antolini. The form has worked out well and, off the same mark, Whatswrongwithyou will surely go close.
Fitness is unlikely to be a problem as this £50,000 race has probably been on Nicky Henderson’s radar since the summer.
And he will be suited by the likely strong pace with Global Citizen, a good second at Ascot last time, and Whatmore both suited to front-running.
Add in Lisp, who pulled hard when winning at Fontwell, and this should be run to suit my fancy.
Buveur D’Air won his second Champion Hurdle in MarchMATTHEW CHILDS
Newcastle stage a fascinating Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2.05), probably the best renewal since the likes of Birds Nest and Sea Pigeon regularly did battle here in the late 70s.
Last season’s top novices, Samcro and Summerville Boy, will surely make this tough for BUVEUR D’AIR but it is hard to oppose the dual Champion, who has not been beaten over hurdles since March 2016, when he was third at Cheltenham, beaten by Altior and Min – not a bad race, that!
Samcro was massively impressive at Cheltenham in March when winning the Ballymore and is a fantastic prospect for chasing further down the line.
He can be excused his defeat by Bedrock, who is back to try and notch another upset, as Gordon Elliott’s horses have tended to need their first run this season but the suspicion is a longer trip would be his preference.
Conditions will be fine for Summerville Boy, who clearly has some engine as he won the Supreme at Cheltenham despite making what looked like a race-losing blunder at the second-last followed be a lesser mistake at the last.
He cannot afford slips like that against Buveur D’Air, whose slick hurdling is one of his greatest assets.
Despite winning a second Champion Hurdle he may not have been at his very best last season but he has had a wind operation over the summer and the Lambourn vibes are very positive.
I spy an eyecatcher…
On Tuesday at Lingfield David Pipe’s NORDIC COMBINED caught the eye when rattling home to take second behind gambled-on winner Champagne Court (100-30 from 10s) in what was probably a decent 2m novice hurdle.
That was the four-year-old’s second run over obstacles and there is more to come.
Having won over 1m6f on the Flat at three he will be well suited by 2m4f or further and is one to look out for, especially in handicaps later in the season.
In the Rehearsal Chase (3.20) give another chance to SHARP RESPONSE, so impressive at Carlisle in October.
He possibly found the rise in class too much too soon at Cheltenham last time but is back in calmer waters here.
The handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds and, as the Tesco ad used to remind us, every little helps!
Otago Trail knows his way round here, having won the race in 2016, but is up against it with top weight after two years off.
Bishops Road is well weighted but finds winning difficult so the big dangers may be Big River and Ballydine, although both are making their seasonal reappearances and this is always a stern test of stamina and fitness.
Vintage Clouds advanced his Grand National prospects when winning at Haydock last Saturday and, having jumped the controversial fences at that Merseyside track well, he should handle the much-modified ones at the ‘other’ course close to the Mersey!
Equally interesting for a good prize when stamina is at a premium is the runner-up TAKINGRISKS who stayed on well for second.
Nicky Richards’ nine-year-old seems to be improving and, now rated 132, it should not be too difficult to find opportunities for him.
He acts on heavy so proper winter ground will suit him down to the . . . er. . . ground!