THERE’S an exciting line-up at Cheltenham this weekend as contenders lay down their credentials for the Festival in March.
Punters will be watching how the likes of SANTINI and PAISLEY PARK perform in their pre-Festival examinations, but tomorrow’s (Saturday) card has some cracking handicaps that may also prove great pointers for the future.
Gold Cup hope SANTINI has done little wrong in his eight starts and a win in the Cotswold Chase would continue trainer Nicky Henderson’s purple patch – he had eight winners last week. He was third in the Albert Bartlett two years ago before finishing second in last season’s RSA. This strapping eight-year-old has always been held in high regard at Seven Barrows and his clean jumping style clearly handles Cheltenham.
There’s also a great day of racing in store at Doncaster, where a competitive looking Sky Bet Handicap Chase is the feature on Town Moor.
Nicky Richards expects to be double-handed with MY OLD GOLD and CHIDSWELL.
The Greystoke trainer has yet to get his name on the trophy for a race formerly run as the Great Yorkshire Chase, but his father Gordon won it three times – including twice in succession, in 1996 and 1997, with Addington Boy and General Command.
The mare MY OLD GOLD came to the game a bit late and was seven before she ran in a point-to-point but she made up time by scoring over course and distance last time out, beating Cloth Cap, while CHIDSWELL won the Grimthorpe Chase at the track last March.
“At the moment I’m intending to run them both, because the ground should be fine for the pair of them,” said Richards.
Of the lightly-raced CHIDSWELL, Richards added: “He’s not had that much racing either for one of his age and is in grand fettle now.
“He’d probably been on the go too long when we took him to the Perth Gold Cup in June, so we left him out at grass a bit longer than the others.
“He blew up first time – but he’ll come on for that and he’s got plenty in his favour, too.”
But fellow handler Alan King says DINGO DOLLAR has been waiting for this race since finishing fifth in the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury in November. He won at Doncaster as a novice and seems to be well-suited by a flat left-hand track.
Tom Cannon is jocked up and is unlikely to make the same mistake as last year when, as the 3-1 favourite, he was dropped in and his jumping went to pieces. He’s expected to be on the money this time from what looks like a workable mark.
Tom George is one of the most profitable trainers on the South Yorkshire track with a 15 per cent strike rate (20-137). His MANOFTHEMOMENT goes in the 2m3f novice handicap chase at 12.40 and looks open to improvement. Drying ground will help him overcome an 8lb higher mark following his Warwick win last month.
Later in the day it will take a good one to stop LADY BUTTONS winning her second successive Yorkshire Rose Mares Hurdle. It could be a good day for her trainer Phil Kirby who also runs TOP VILLE BEN, who can make the frame in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.
Carrigill’s nap: (money back as a free bet if it finishes outside top four. Write Augur on your slip to qualify):
CHAMPAGNE WELL, Doncaster, Saturday, 2.05.
Augur’s best bet:
DINGO DOLLAR (e/w), Doncaster, Saturday, 3.15.