Sunday at Naas

On Sunday, it looks like a dress rehearsal for the National Hunt Chase as Chemical Energy, Ramillies and Thedevilscoachman all face each other (12:57). While the latter could end up in the Brown Advisory, it wouldn’t surprise me if they all went for the race over the longer trip. Either way, it’ll be a race worth watching as they’re three good horses.

The big race on the card is the Limestone Lad Hurdle (14:42) that was won by Darasso last year and he lines up again. It’s a good race, though, as Bob Olinger also runs, as does a good mare of Willie’s called Echoes In Rain . She wasn’t far off top class last season and gets a mares’ allowance.

Cheltenham on Saturday

Cheltenham Festival Trials Day is where it all starts ramping up for the big festival in March. While it was disappointing to see Ascot get called off last week, it’s brilliant that they’ve managed to get it rescheduled for Cheltenham this weekend.

The first race (11:40) is the Triumph Trial and has been won by some good horses in the past, although no horses has won this and gone on to win at the Festival since Defi Du Seuil in 2017. Pied Piper did go close last year, though. Scriptwriter was a very talented horse on the flat. He was only beaten by six lengths by a horse who went on to win the 2000 Guineas last year. I think he’s smart and his trainer think he’s very, very good. That’s good enough for me.

Due to how quick the ground was at the backend of the year, the Cross-Country races have been postponed, so this (12:40) is the first one of the season at Cheltenham. Delta Work is obviously very, very good and he won the big race over this course-and-distance at the Festival in March, when he wore down Tiger Roll, which was a great race. He’s got top weight to carry but Rob James takes off 7lb which should help.

Foxy Jacks ran a huge race at Leopardstown at Christmas, and he if he takes to the course, I can see him playing a huge part, too.

The betting has the 13:20 as a two-horse race and I think that’s fair on ratings. The two front-runners are a good 10lb clear of the next and I think they’ll finish a good 10 lengths clear of the field. I’m not sure how you can back against Energumene , though. His record is superb and although Shishkin was pulled up at the start of the Betway Champion Chase last year, he’d have had to have been on his A-game to get close. We’ve only seen him once this season and he dotted up in the Hilly Way at Cork. I think he’ll dot up again. Edwardstone should be second, but I think he’ll get put in his place.

Betway are paying six places on the 13:50 and there are two that I think that will run well. Dan Skelton has his team in good form and his Spiritofthegames loves it around Cheltenham. He never runs a bad race and I’m sure Harry will drop him in and play him late.

Simply The Betts is really well handicapped now and if he gets luck in running, I think he’ll be there or thereabouts, too. He’s a previous festival winner, don’t forget.

I'm excited to watch the 14:25. Protektorat ran well in the Gold Cup last season and was superb at Haydock in November. He’s improved massively from his novice days and seems have grown up massively now. I think he’s got that touch of class and should be too good for Noble Yeats, despite how much he’s improved this season.

Paisley Park has been very good this season and while at times last season I didn’t think he was the same horse, he’s clearly bouncing this year. I’ve long thought Dasher Drasher would need 3m, so it wouldn’t be a shock to me if he gave him a big race (15:00).

Henri The Second looked very good when he won at Sandown in December. He seemed to put it together much more than he had on his debut over hurdles at Chepstow, which was obviously a learning experience for him. I’d love to see him go again (15:35) and continue his progression. At the bottom, Fergal O’Brien’s mare, Bonttay, isn’t too be underestimated, though. She was very good in bumpers last year and found it all happening too quickly over 2m last time. Stepping up in trip and with the mares’ allowance could see her improve plenty.

Doncaster on Saturday

At Doncaster, Boothill should take all of the beating in the Lightening Novice Chase (13:35). He’s only been beaten once this season and that was by Jonbon. I like him and was impressed by him at Kempton last time. He should continue his rise up the ranks, although he’s going to be a short price.

The same can be said for Epatante in the next race (14:05). She’s going to be way odds-on, but this is much easier than facing Constitution Hill as she has done this season. She should really be winning this and winning it well. 

I can’t split two in the big race at Doncaster (15:15). Mister Coffey seems to keep finishing second, but he’s obviously got ability and a race like this should suit him.

The other horse I think will go well is Demachine . I like the way he ran at Cheltenham last time. This is easier and this flatter track will suit him better.

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