Unfortunately, this weekend’s action has succumbed to the weather and Cheltenham Trials day has been cancelled. We will however crack on with the remaining action and a stellar card from Doncaster where Shishkin looks to enhance his growing reputation. Royal Kahala and Gauloise clash across the Irish Sea at Fairyhouse which could provide a big Cheltenham Festival clue with the Dawn Run Mares Novices’ in mind. Last weekend the preview highlighted impressive Ascot winner Roksana 4/5 along with Kateson 11/1 and Crossley Tender 7/1 who picked up places in some fiercely competitive Ascot handicaps. With the weather causing havoc I’ve taken a look at all 7 races from Doncaster and the Grade 3 Mares Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse.
Go West for the best bet in Doncaster opener
The Doncaster card kicks off with a 2 mile 3-furlong handicap hurdle and I like the chances of Philip Kirby’s Sunset West 5/1. His Point to Point and Race Rules form reads 232213F2 highlighting his consistency to date. His form this season reads extremely well too. On hurdles debut at Wetherby he placed third, 11 lengths behind smart novices Ask A Honey Bee (now rated 132) and Ashtown Lad (now rated 135). On his next start at Kelso, Sunset West looked the winner two from home but took a crashing fall which thankfully didn’t seem to leave its mark when he was a good second to Enqarde on his most recent start over 2 miles 6 furlongs at Newcastle. He had to concede 7lbs to Enqarde that day which proved an impossible task given Enqarde won cosily as Ascot last Saturday and is now rated 127 over hurdles and 132 over fences. On the evidence of his form to date, I believe a mark of 117 underestimates Sunset West’s ability and the drop back in trip will suit. 5/1 looks a nice price.
Electric Shishkin to strike on route to Arkle in Lightning Novices’ Chase
The first Grade 2 on a fantastic Doncaster card sees current Arkle favourite Shishkin 1/4 have his final prep run before The Festival in March. Two chase starts to date have yielded two emphatic wins and his jumping has been nothing short of excellent. Given he runs to form; he’ll take the world of beating. Shishkin’s most recent win came in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices Chase where he cruised to victory showing immense gears between 2 out and the finishing line. For those of you that like your speed figures, his winning time that day was 2 seconds faster than Desert Orchid Chase winner Nube Negra who carried 2lbs less over the same course and distance. I got my stop watch out to compare the finishing efforts considering both won their races in a similar fashion. From landing 3 out to the finishing line, I clocked Shishkin at 35.63 seconds which was just under 3 seconds quicker than Nube Negra at 38.41. Nube Negra was asked for a finishing kick after the last but was also about a second slower from landing at the last to the finishing line. Both he and Shishkin were eased down so we can’t draw too many conclusions other than Shishkin would appear to have plenty of gears and some serious pace. I can’t wait to see him strut his stuff!
Irish Roe worth chancing in the Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle
Just the 6 mares line up to contest the Grade 2 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Yorkshire Rose Marketing Mares’ Hurdle. Despite the small field, it looks a tricky little contest. Market leader Floressa tops the official ratings at 143 and on the face of her emphatic reappearance win she may be hard to beat. She contested the Christmas Hurdle last time out and I wasn’t convinced she enjoyed the soft surface so she may be worth taking on, on what is likely to be pretty soft ground. Stable mate Marie’s Rock looked a potential superstar last season but blotted her copybook on her return to action behind Floressa. Nico has also jumped ship in favour of the favourite. At the prices I
think Irish Roe 12/1 could represent a bit of value. Her course form reads 112232 and a disqualification in the race last year where she had placed second. She actually beat Floressa last year and has beaten the likes of Mohaayed and Maria’s Benefit round the track so we know she loves Doncaster. This time around she has a 2lb swing at the weights with Floressa and bounced back to form with a lovely “Jumpers Bumper” performance last time out. This has likely been the big target for her this season and she may well spring a surprise!
Bass and Bailey can strike with Bob
Last weekend the Bass and Bailey combo struck with First Flow in the Clarence House Chase and I’m hoping the same duo can strike in the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle. Bobhopeornohope 9/1 looks a nice price on his form lines through a few of today’s rivals. Two hurdle starts to date have yielded 2 wins and this son of Westerner looks sure to improve for the step up to three miles. He beat the re-opposing Ask A Honey Bee on hurdles debut receiving 6lbs but did the job quite nicely and I’d like to think he can uphold the form off level weights. Sent off a warm favourite on his last start, Bobhopeornohope looked to have the race won jumping the last but made a right mess of it and was headed by some fast finishing challengers. He fought back gamely though and landed the odds in commanding fashion at the line. He strikes me as a horse who saves a bit for himself and doesn’t do a great deal in front so I’m hoping Bass can deliver him late on the scene.
The enigma to prove lightening does strike twice in Doncaster feature
Doncaster’s feature race of the day is the 3-mile Sky Bet Handicap Chase. This year’s renewal looks a hot one and current 5/2 favourite Cap Du Nord is bound to prove a popular pick on a form line through the now 166 rated Royal Pagaille. He looks short enough now and there are plenty of challengers. Canelo is in fine form and can run another big race but he’s gone up a further 6lbs for his most recent success and the handicapper may be catching up with him. One For The Team will have his supporters having run the now 153 rated Next Destination to just over a length off level weights but his jumping would be a worry after a poor round at Kempton in the Kauto Star Novices Chase.
The fly in the ointment could well be the enigma that is Yorkhill 22/1. Supposedly gone at the game, Sandy Thomson worked his magic and Yorkhill delivered a win at 66/1 at Newcastle in a listed handicap chase. Prominent from the start, Yorkhill soon pulled his way into the lead and seemed to relax out in front. He jumped beautifully throughout and was still travelling with ease coming into the home straight. Just when you thought his rivals were about to eat him up, Yorkhill found more and ran out an extremely game winner. I actually think he had a bit left and was idling all the way up the run in. Can Yorkhill back that effort up in hotter looking handicap is going to be the big question. We know he handles soft ground having won a Toleworth Hurdle on heavy and he’s a dual festival winner so his new mark of 147 looks well within his reach. You have to remember Yorkhill was officially rated 164 in his prime and I think he showed us enough last time out to roll the dice one more time. For old times’ sake I’ll have a bit on each way and it may well be the heart ruling the head but I think Yorkhill can run another big race.
Who’s In The Box can continue his fine run of form
Nick Kent’s Who’s In The Box 5/1 has taken to fences well this season, recording form figures of 221. His latest win looks a particularly strong piece of form having beaten Cyclop by a neck giving him 9lbs. Cyclop went on to bolt up on his next start by 20 lengths and then ran a good race to finish
third last time out. Cyclop is now rated 132 so Who’s In The Box would look fairly well in running off 115. A winner on soft we know Who’s In The Box will handle the ground and I think odds of 5/1 are on the generous side. I’m expecting a big run.
The last race from Doncaster comes at 4:25 and is a Mares Bumper over a little further than 2 miles. It wouldn’t look the hottest bumper in the world and it may be worth siding with Step To The Tip 1/8 who is well clear on racing post ratings. She has quite a long absence to overcome but has experience on her side with three bumper starts under her belt. Form figures of 322 including a two length defeat to the now 132 rated Nada To Prada read extremely well in this company. Should she return in a similar vein of form, she should take some beating.
Royal Kahala to enhance Mares Novice claims in Fairyhouse showdown
The big race of the day in Ireland is the Grade 3 Race Displays Mares Novice Hurdle. This race promises to be a cracker with Mares Novice Hurdle favourite Gauloise heading the betting and chief market rival for both this race and the festival, Royal Kahala set to throw down a challenge. Mighty Blue, Brave Way and Delvino are also amongst the classy 12 runner field. Gauloise currently heads the betting at 13/8 and I think she’s worth taking on with Royal Kahala 5/2 who won a decent contest last time out with plenty in hand. Despite meeting trouble coming round the final bend, Royal Kahala quickly switched and powered home to win comfortably. She beat Willie Mullins’ Hook Up that day who beat subsequent winner Gars De Sceaux by 12 lengths so I’d say there is good substance to the form. Having to give 2lb to Gauloise is far from ideal but I get the feeling this filly could be a cut above.
Best of luck if you’re having a bet this weekend
By Sam Rideout – Follow me on Twitter @TheTr17pleP