Following on from the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend we can look forward to the final few major Cheltenham trials on these shores this weekend in the form of the Game Spirit and Denman Chases, although with Ireland so dominant, what effect it will have on the shape of the Festival markets is open to debate.
No Warwick sadly, but an excellent Newbury card to savour.
Betfred TV's Matt Hulmes.
13.30 NEWBURY - Equinus @ 10/1
We start with a competitive staying handicap hurdle over three miles.
Emitom had EQUINUS (above) back in fifth over track and trip in November, but I’m siding with EQUINUS to turn the form around. He has fifteen lengths to find but was sent off Evens favourite on the back of an easy win at Aintree a few days earlier, and it may have come too soon.
He ran on when under pressure from a fair way out at Sandown but that proved he handles soft conditions and stays well, attributes that will be required this afternoon.
14.05 NEWBURY - Shishkin @ 4/6
Four favourites priced 5/4 or less have been beaten in the Denman Chase over the last decade, so the race does carry a wealth warning.
Having said that, a well behaved SHISHKIN (below) should be too good for his five rivals this afternoon. Arguably unlucky not to arrive here as a King George winner, he is the shortest-priced British-trained contender for the Gold Cup and has a few pounds in hand this afternoon in a bid to put the finishing touches on him for his date with destiny in five weeks’ time.
As long as he doesn’t turn up in a mood like at Ascot in November and jumps off sweetly like at Kempton, he will have too much class.
Protektorat was better at Lingfield last time, but that form is still not good enough to scalp an on-song SHISHKIN, while Hitman was a beaten 9/4f last year but his form since a Ryanair third has been way below par, and he is best watched.
14.40 NEWBURY – Boothill @ 9/4
Funambule Sivola bids for a hat-trick in this race but has been soundly beaten in three handicaps this term so he looks set to come up short this year.
Editeur Du Gite was on the back foot early after a serious mistake in the Clarence House Chase at Cheltenham and is best judged when having Edwardstone behind in an epic battle in the 2023 edition of that race.
He also won the Desert Orchid Chase when BOOTHILL exited five out with an uncharacteristic error, but the latter was sent off just 11/8f that day after two handicap wins at Ascot.
He was being aimed at the G1 Tingle Creek earlier in December but the ground ruled him out of that and I am backing him to get back to winning ways.
Edwardstone ran a funny race at Kempton last month when very keen and not seeing out the trip, while recently looking like he needs further than the minimum in other races this campaign, so is proving hard to gauge at present.
15.15 NEWBURY – Go Dante @ 20/1
A wide-open twenty-four runner punters' puzzle in the form of the Betfair Hurdle.
Lots of talk this week centred around Ocastle Des Mottes but he looks set to line-up and on his well-advertised French form, will have leading claims and will have welcomed the rain that fell over the last forty-eight hours.
Altobelli is another who will relish the softer conditions and did well to finish as close as he did on good ground at Ascot in December when third to Luccia, with Onlyamatteroftime (first reserve) in sixth and Iberico Lord further back in seventh. He is weighted to reverse the form with the mare.
Lookaway brings solid handicap and Grade 1 novice form to the table and is feared, as is hat-trick seeking Aurigny Mill and course winner Brentford Hope, although he may be in the handicapper’s grip judged on his third-placed effort here at the Hennessy meeting.
Norman Fletcher could go well at a price as he’s proven on underfoot conditions and Nigel Twiston-Davies has won three of the last ten renewals.
Sadly, my original pick, Tellherthename, was taken out yesterday afternoon so I will now edge towards a small each-way play on GO DANTE (pink silks, above) for the returning Sean Bowen and the red-hot Olly Murphy team.
He was a well held sixth in the Greatwood but was game to beat Doddiethegreat back at Cheltenham in December. He has a good record with give underfoot and his jockey will be eager to make up for lost time after an enforced injury absence, having returned to the saddle on Thursday.
15.50 NEWBURY Inch House (NAP) @ 13/8
There was no disgrace in going down to Kim Muir runner-up Stumptown at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and as a two-time course winner going back to Berkshire this weekend, INCH HOUSE should take plenty of beating at 3.50.
The handicapper has left him untouched for that effort and there is surely still improvement to come from the seven-year-old on just his sixth start over fences. With all five of the opposition having something to prove after their most recent runs, INCH HOUSE rates a solid bet to make it three from five over fences and three from three at Newbury under Jonjo O'Neill Jr.
Horse Racing tips from Betfred Insights.