Seven go to post for the novices’ limited handicap chase on the opening day of Newbury’s two-day Coral Gold Cup, which is likely to be run on a mix of good and good to soft ground after Thursday’s forecast rain.
Balco Coastal makes his chase debut for Nicky Henderson and has been put in very short in the betting, given this looks like such a competitive heat. The form of Datsalrightgino’s second to Boothill on his penultimate start was franked at Ascot at the weekend, but I think the 9lb rise for his subsequent Chepstow success may prevent him from following up.
Aucunrisque isn’t the biggest, and he will have to improve on his Uttoxeter win on chase debut and my two against the field are Soaring Glory and FRERE D’ARMES with preference for the latter, who scored with plenty in hand at Kempton on his chase debut, and he can defy a 6lbs rise.
The selection finished behind Balco Coastal over hurdles at Ludlow last season and is 2lbs worse off, but Dan Skelton’s 5-y-old has invaluable experience over the larger obstacles and receives weight from his six rivals.
Soaring Glory has a terrific record fresh and won the Betfair Hurdle here last February. He will do well to defy his big weight on his chase debut, but he is a supremely talented horse with an excellent course record.
Stage Star’s hurdle form tailed off after his win in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle here last December, but he made an impressive chase debut when scoring by 13L at Warwick at the beginning of the month. He is a worthy market leader, but he is short enough in the betting – 5/6 from Evens with William Hill.
Beauport is better on soft ground and must give weight to the Paul Nicholls-trained favourite. Comprond only got as far as the first at Exeter on his chase debut but will enjoy the ground and is a personal favourite.
The vote, however, goes to the outsider of the field WONDERWALL, who has his first start since coming down at the last in the Sidney Banks at Huntingdon back in February. He had looked very good when scoring at Doncaster on his previous start and connections felt they had a Cheltenham horse on their hands before coming a cropper last time. I thought he was beaten at the time and feel the soft ground may have been to blame. At 16/1 he gets the each-way vote.
BEAKSTOWN ran a terrific race in the Old Roan on ground that was, arguably, just too soft for him and the forecast good ground is ideal for Dan Skelton’s 9-y-old who has been dropped a couple of pounds since Aintree.
I remember the horse finishing fourth to Champ here over fences as a novice when he travelled like the best horse in the race only to empty over that extended 2m 6f+ trip. As long as there is not significant rain, he will have his optimum conditions today with Numitor likely to ensure a decent test at the trip. The yard have won the corresponding race twice in the last five years.
Talking of Champ and the JP McManus-owned hurdler could easily land the feature race, the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle. The 10-year-old won the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle first time out last term but failed to go on, finishing placed in his three subsequent starts, including at Aintree and Newbury.
He was behind Paisley Park at Cheltenham in January, but he can reverse the form this afternoon although PROSCHEMA is taken to build on a terrific win at Wetherby in the West Yorkshire Hurdle on his reappearance. Good ground is the key to the selection, and he showed a potent turn of foot last time.
Dashel Drasher will lead, but he is unlikely to make it an end-to-end gallop with his stamina for three miles unproven. I take the Skelton horse to strike fast and late.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.