13:45 Gaskells Handicap Hurdle
Mr Big Shot had a really tough task in the Martin Pipe after more than a year off, and actually ran a blinder before tiring late on. Conventional wisdom dictates that he should do much better with that run behind him, especially with David Pipe back among the winners. That logic also applied to King’s Socks who also faded late at Cheltenham after a long absence, and was punted off the boards for the Red Rum Chase on Thursday only to run a stinker.
In effect, he bounced, and Mr Big Shot is more likely to follow that pattern than to get back on track here as well – Cheltenham isn’t a good track to give horses a prep in such circumstances. Even if running to form, the gelding is far from certain to hit the frame here, and if Cheltenham has sent him backwards rather than forwards, then he’ll struggle to be competitive at all.
Dream Berry has an identical profile having run in the same Cheltenham race, finishing seventh behind Blow By Blow, and I’d lay both for a place given they are first and second in the betting – the other one vying for favouritism is coming off a year’s absence!
14:25 Mersey Novices Hurdle
Black Op is the one to beat on form, but form is something Tom George is struggling for at present, and the Ballymore runner-up is opposable, partly because of his trainer’s current woes, but also because he was was well beaten when favourite for the Grade 2 bumper here last year.
On The Blind Side ought to be favourite for this when you consider how short he was for the Ballymore before being pulled out with a minor setback. Nicky Henderson is flying high, and I expect the front two to flip flop in the betting. Lay Black Op before the market corrects itself is the advice.
15:40 Grade 3 Handicap Chase
Rocklander will be popular in this Grade 3 handicap chase after a cracking third in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, but as another Tom George inmate, he needs to be treated with caution, and he has stamina to prove at this trip.
It will be considered that his jumping is fine given he went around Prestbury Park without mishap, but the Mildmay fences are probably a bigger test for a horse, and he fell at the first when tackling this trip at Doncaster earlier in the season, having almost done the same over Ludlow’s supposedly soft fences on his previous outing.
It’s not been easy to make the running on the Mildmay course this week, and with stamina still to prove, Rocklander has a win-or-bust profile. Bust for me.
- 13:45 – Lay Mr Big Shot for a place @ 4.0 or shorter
- 13:45 – Lay Dream Berry for a place @ 3.8 or shorter
- 14:25 – Lay Black Op @ 3.1 or shorter
- 15:40 – Lay Rocklander for a place @ 3.1 or shorter