The chance of showers at Newbury this afternoon on top of good ground for the opening day of their Ladbrokes Winter Carnival with the last four races being televised on ITV3.
The feature race is the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle and this is a big race for all connected with Paisley Park (3.00) who lost his Stayers’ Hurdle crown at Cheltenham back in March and a seven-race unbeaten run. At the time of writing jockey Aidan Coleman is having a frustrating run of things with a barren spell lasting a week while trainer Emma Lavelle will be desperate to have her stable star back on track.
The selection has a perfect record fresh and should have the race run to suit with Sam Spinner likely to ensure a decent test reverting to hurdles. The latter receives weight from the principles and reverts to timber having been pulled up in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby last month. Sam Spinner went unbeaten in three starts over fences but lacks the scope for the larger obstacles and he is one of many dangers headed by McFabulous – who has to prove his stamina – and Thyme Hill who lost his unbeaten record over hurdles when an, arguably, unlucky loser in the Albert Bartlett back in March.
Editeur Du Gite (12.45) got a soft time of things on the lead at Ascot but jumped soundly – if a little out to his left – and only gave way after the last over an additional three furlongs on his seasonal reappearance. A 5lbs rise makes life more difficult as does the fact that he will be taken on for the lead today with Zoffee another confirmed front runner. I just favour the Gary Moore-trained six-year-old in a hot novice handicap.
I was expecting to see Fiddlerontheroof (1.50) a shorter price for the Grade 2 novice chase as I would be disappointed if he were not able to cope with Caribbean Boy or Getaway Trump at level weights. The selection showed a willing attitude when getting back up to beat the promising Silver Hallmark at Exeter last time. He had previously finished runner up on his chase debut behind If The Cap Fits at a time when the Colin Tizzard inmates were coming on for the run.
Hill Sixteen (3.35) ran away with a handicap chase on his reappearance and first start for Nigel Twiston-Davies last week and connections are trying to make hay before his new rating kicks in on Saturday. He has been raised 10lbs over hurdles from tomorrow and 15lbs over fences. His recent Ffos Las success was gained over a shorter trip but he travelled like a class act and this step up in distance on better ground should be well within his compass. Their arm has been forced somewhat but he looked as if the change of scenery had done him the world of good nine days ago and he is taken to follow up.
The 2m 4f handicap case at Doncaster is a belter and The Unit ran a terrific race at Wetherby returning from a 685-day lay-off last month. Today’s forecast good ground is ideal, and I believe he can reverse form with Nietzsche who finished one place in front of Alan King’s nine-year-old in west Yorkshire.
The each way vote, however, goes to Pogue (1.25) who was no match for Lock’ Corner at Bangor on his reappearance back in September but that horse won at Kempton from a 14lbs higher mark at the beginning of the week. The grey has been dropped 1lb for that effort and he was very impressive when making all from a 7lbs lower mark over today’s C&D back in January.
I thought Jean Genie (2.35) should have got the race in the Stratford Stewards’ room last time but the winner – Cuban Pete – followed up at Hereford on Wednesday and the hope is that the selection improves for the step up to three miles for the first time. The four-year-old has been raised 5lbs for his last couple of starts and, taking jockey’s allowances into consideration, he is 8lbs higher in the weights. Three miles is a long way for a 4-y-o, but he receives a 9lbs weight-for-age allowance from his elders and he is taken to go one better.