Top Of The Bill looks the value in Newbury opener
Soft ground at Newbury for this afternoon’s seven-race card with further light showers forecast, although they said the same at Ludlow yesterday and it poured down all day.
Owner Max McNeil is a huge Blackburn Rovers fan and when he paid £150,000 for an unnamed well-bred 3-y-old and called him Shearer he would have been hoping that he had a top-class jumping prospect on his hands.
His 6-y-old won a soft ground Warwick Bumper last season and took his chance in the Cheltenham Bumper, but he remains a maiden after three starts over timber and he is highly unlikely to scale the equine heights that his illustrious namesake did at Ewood and St James’ Park.
Paul Nicholls fits his novice with cheekpieces for the first time and he looks sure to run a big race on ground which clearly suits, but Top Of The Bill (1.45pm) is twice the price of Shearer and receives 7lbs from the market leader. He gets the each way vote.
Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, the selection was a useful maiden in Bumpers and showed promise when a close fourth at Longfield on his hurdles debut. He failed to build on that run when a beaten favourite at Doncaster back in December but his subsequent absence from the track suggests something was found to have been amiss.
Recommendation: Top Of The Bill (1.45pm Newbury) @ 6/1 with William Hill (Each-Way)
Gelino Bello (3.30pm) was last seen finishing fourth in the Lanzarote at Kempton in January although he was taken out of a race with a vet’s certificate at Fontwell last month at a time when the Nicholls’ horses were not firing.
The yard look to have turned the corner in recent days – should have had doubles at Wincanton on Wednesday and Taunton on Wednesday – and I think he could be very smart. He bypasses Cheltenham but I expect to see him at Aintree next month.
Recommendation: Gelino Bello (3.30pm Newbury) @ 4/6 with bet365
A couple of the Lucy Wadham horses have run below par this week and Somekindofstar is overlooked and the 2m handicap chase might rest between Commis D’Office and Monsieur Lecoq (4.35pm) with preference for the Jane Williams-trained 8-y-old who is 4lbs below his last winning mark when scoring at Ascot back in the autumn.
The selection put behind two moderate runs when finishing runner up to a progressive sort of Jonjo O’Neill at Hereford in first-time blinkers last time and the headgear is reapplied this afternoon. I remember the selection finishing third in the Greatwood Hurdle, beaten less than a length, when he would surely have prevailed had he not pulled his jockey’s arms out for the first mile. That was from a 17lbs higher mark than today.
Recommendation: Monsieur Lecoq (4.35pm Newbury) @ 5/2 with bet365
The ground was given as good to soft at Doncaster yesterday, but further rain is forecast, and I would suggest conditions are likely to be no better than soft for today’s card.
In the Veterans’ Chase I expect to see a big run from Steel Wave (2.00pm) who represents the inform yard of Gary Hanmer. The selection is 3lbs wrong at the weights but is in good form having won at Ludlow on soft ground on his penultimate start before just missing out by a nose over today’s C&D last time.
The Venetia Williams trained First Figaro has gone well fresh in the past and he must go close with Ned Fox taking off a valuable 10lbs although he may put up a couple of pounds of overweight. Top-weight Tanarpino is a horse I have plenty of time for, but he must give two stone to the selection and that sways me towards Steel Wave.
Recommendation: Steel Wave (2.00pm Doncaster) @ 9/2 with bet365