The racing broadcaster picks out four fancies from Doncaster, Uttoxeter and Newcastle on Saturday, as well as his usual list of jockeys to keep an eye on.
The fickle nature of the build up to the Cheltenham Festival has been highlighted this week with setbacks for Allaho and Theleme opening up the Ryanair and Stayers markets. Jonbon, Lossiemouth, Jeriko Du Reponet and Stay Away Fay are all towards the head of various ante post markets and will look to stake their claims this weekend.
The rescheduled Clarence House Chase has sadly not resulted in the El Fabiolo v Jonbon clash that would have taken place at Ascot, and really has cut up in what should be a straightforward task for Jonbon. With Nico De Boinville taking a few extra days off to recover from his collar bone injury, James Bowen is the recipient of yet another great ride and he has been grasping the opportunities provided by the injuries to Nico and James’s brother Sean with both hands.
He equalled his most successful month of 13 wins in December and is on 10 for this month so far, those 23 wins coming against an expected number based on prices of 18.45 for an A/E Ratio of 1.25 (Par 1.00). Editeur Du Gite bounced back to form last time and twelve months ago lowered the colours of Edwardstone and Energumene when the race was also rerouted here, but it will be a big shock if Jonbon fails to deliver.
No major betting angles at Cheltenham, but in the Great Yorkshire at Doncaster KANDOO KID 9/1 (15:15 Doncaster) is of interest, stepping up to three miles. He has been mixing it with Venetia Williams’ horses recently, chasing home Djelo last time over a trip that was always going to be on the sharp side, after staying on strongly to collar Frero Banbou over 2m 4f at Newbury. He shaped very much like a stayer that day and, although the handicapper has raised him another 5lb from Ascot, he is a young progressive chaser who is unexposed at the trip.
The other factor in his favour is that the ground is likely to be better than is often the case for this race, which can sometimes be really attritional and play more into the hands of the gnarly, chiselled old handicappers, rather than the less experienced but more progressive types.
Nicholls also has a decent chance with Il Ridoto in the 13:15 at Cheltenham after just losing out to Fugitif – which runs in the Clarence House – last time. He, like Kandoo Kid, has been raised 5lb in defeat but that does put him 10lb higher than the mark off which he won last year and so would probably require a career best to defy it. Victtorino and Excello are both major dangers but again their prices look just about right.
Tom Lacey’s continues to be a yard very much on my radar, especially after his recent victory with our tracker horse Sammy’s Guarantee. His last three months have resulted in 17 winners against an expected 10.71 for an A/E of 1.59, and in January his numbers are five winners from 12 starters.
LUTTRELL LAD SP (12:55 Doncaster) narrowly failed to add to that when beaten at Hereford last month, as he got mugged late on by Call Me Lord. He runs off the same mark here and should be in at the finish under Cameron Iles, who has won six of his last eight rides for Tom and so is clearly decent value for the final throes of his 7lb claim.
Lacey also has an excellent chance with CALL ME ARTHUR (16:18 Uttoxeter) having narrowly failed to get up at Exeter last time on only his second handicap run. He has a worthy adversary in Libor Lad who was one of our stable tracker horses until recently, but Call Me Arthur can prove he is better than this grade.
Away from the main action KING VIKTOR SP (16:15 Newcastle) can continue what has been a golden start to 2024 for trainer Brian Ellison. Nine winners this month is his best return since October 2019, and King Viktor has contributed two to that tally with back-to-back victories at Southwell. A 5lb rise should not be enough to stop him – he has placed off 66 in the past – and the drop in trip should be counteracted by Newcastle’s stiffer finish.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Here are the jockeys riding at tracks on Saturday where they have a good career record:
Doncaster – Paddy Brennan (32/146 with an A/E of 1.44)
Kempton – Lewis Edmunds (18/114, A/E 1.57)
Newcastle – Johnny Peate (26/158, A/E 1.54)
LUTTRELL LAD SP Doncaster 12:55
KANDOO KID 9/1 Doncaster 15:15
KING VIKTOR SP Newcastle 16:15
CALL ME ARTHUR SP Uttoxeter 16:18
COLUMN PERFORMANCE in 2024
Selections (Winners vs Expected): 2.00/1.95, A/E 1.03
Jockeys For Courses: 5.00/3.89, A/E 1.29
Stable Tracker Horses: 3.00/1.38, A/E 2.17
Overall: 10.00/7.22, A/E 1.39 (Par 1.00)