There is significant rain forecast for Newbury on Wednesday evening, and underfoot conditions are likely to be good to soft for today’s feature meeting.
Paul Nicholls has saddled the winner of the opening conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle for the last couple of years, and he gave an upbeat report on the prospects of Grivetana in a recent stable tour. Nicholls suggested she was on a decent handicap mark, although he tempered confidence by saying she had been slow to come to hand. Any rain would be a plus, and the filly’s owners have close ties to the course.
As long as the ground is no worse than good to soft LONG STAY can go one better than when beaten just over a length at Perth in September on his first start in over 668 days. The form is working out very well, including the last horse home who has won twice in the interim period.
The yard’s conditional Jack Hogan takes off 6lbs, and do note the 7-y-old is entered at Sandown on Sunday. If successful today he would escape a penalty for the weekend.
In the past, the starter could have shouted “those trying to the front” in the Pertemps Hurdle qualifiers and the fight for fourth – used to be six to qualify for the Festival finale – was as interesting as the battle for the win. However, this would not be the strongest qualifier staged on either side of the Irish Sea this season, and I don’t think it will be a race that has any bearing on Cheltenham in March.
The JP McManus-owned DIDTHEYLEAVEUOUTTO finished second in the corresponding race 12 months ago and is 3lbs lower in the weights this afternoon. He was taken out of a race at Cheltenham last month on account of the prevailing ground, considered too quick, but he certainly doesn’t want soft ground. Connections have stumbled across a very winnable-looking race for the 9-y-old who doesn’t win very often.
Geordie Des Champs – also in the McManus silks – has been in good form this summer, but he is another who would not want to see too much overnight rain. He is rising 12 now, although it says much for the race quality that he has been put in at 5/1.
I like the booking of Brian Hughes for FISTON DU MOU in the staying handicap chase. The selection had not been asked a serious question when he unseated Becky Smith four out at Cheltenham last month – jumped the last three very well riderless – from 7lbs out of the handicap.
The Irish import is a winner between the flags in Ireland and represents the stable of Ann Duffield, a stable you wouldn’t normally associate with staying chasers.
I don’t think market leader Baron De Middleton will stay, especially if there is rain overnight, as the forecast predicts. Dragonfruit and Chanting Hill look like bigger dangers, although I will be disappointed if the selection does not run a big race.
BRAVEHEART did us a big favour at Exeter last month, and an 8lbs higher mark is unlikely to prevent him from following up if in the same mood. That said, he would not want to see the word soft in the official description, given his best form has come on a sound surface.
Sam Twiston-Davies takes over in the saddle for Jamie Snowden, with Johnny Burke required to ride for Tom George at Newbury.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.
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