I was hoping Lucinda Russell would swerve Cheltenham this weekend and head to Uttoxeter as I wanted to back Mister Coffey in the opening Novices’ Chase for Nicky Henderson on his seasonal reappearance.
I will not because HAUTE ESTIME looks sure to come on a ton for her Kelso chase debut when she was left in the lead at the first after the fall of Shantou Express. I am slightly concerned about underfoot conditions, given she would prefer more give, but she has winning form on good ground, and she is held in the highest regard by her yard. The mare finished third in the G1 Sefton Novice Hurdle at Aintree back in the spring, but she promises to be a better chaser than hurdler.
She would be receiving more weight from a couple of the geldings if this were a handicap, and I am surprised she is not running against her own sex, but she is potentially better than this opposition, although she has only won two of her nine career starts.
I was sweet on the chance of Fantastikas at Sandown last weekend before the meeting was abandoned, but I just wonder if underfoot conditions will be just too quick for the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained gelding.
The Mighty Don looks well treated at the foot of the weights, having finished runner-up in the corresponding race 12 months ago from a 7lbs higher mark. He has his optimum conditions and could be a shade too big at a double-figure price, but I have backed BACK ON THE LASH each way and would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race.
Trained locally by Martin Keighley, the horse was being aimed at the X-Country Chase at this meeting – a race he won 12 months ago – until it was abandoned, but this near three-and-a-half-mile handicap on a sound surface looks like a suitable alternative.
The big betting race of the day is the Unibet Greatwood Hurdle, which has been the plan for SonIgno since he won at Chepstow at the beginning of October. The problem with that fluent victory is that the handicapper wasn’t overly impressed and only raised the Paul Nicholls’ trained 5-y-old by 5lbs. Connections then decided they had to win another race to ensure they got into the race. So, they went back to south Wales duly won by 13L and went up another 10lbs.
Little did they know, but Sonigno would have gotten into the race without the 10lbs rise, and I just wonder if that is a couple of pounds too much. I still expect him to run a huge race.
I was sweet on the chance of Nina The Terrier at Wetherby at Chepstow last time, and she wasn’t done with when coming down three out. She will love the ground and is weighted to reverse Chepstow form with Sonigno, but I just wonder if she needs slightly further these days.
Irish raiders Dads Lad and Thousand Tears are much respected, but the each-way vote goes to CURRENT MOOD representing Evan Williams. The selection gets further than two miles, and she ran an eye-catching race at Ffos Las on her reappearance when claimer ridden and not given a hard time, shall we say.
The mare is reunited with Adam Wedge – two wins from four rides on the mare – and it is possible that she will get run off her feet back in distance, but if she is there or thereabouts going to the last, I think she will finish better than most.
Quinta Do Mar won the Salmon Spray 12 months ago for Ben Pauling off a similar mark, and he reverts back to timber, having made a satisfactory chase debut at Uttoxeter last month. This intermediate 2m 1f+ trip is ideal, he will love the ground, but the favourite ran no race 12 months ago and he may not have had a great deal to beat.
Paul Nicholls gives the ride on IRISH HILL to 10lbs claimer Freddie Gingell and that could prove crucial for the 4-y-old who looks fairly treated for his return to the track and has had a wind operation since last seen back in the spring. Nicholls suggested in a recent stable tour that he thinks the grey remains fairly treated. At the time of writing, Gingell’s last four rides have finished 2-3-1-4. He looks like a promising conditional.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.