A lack of quality characterises Newbury’s seven-race card on Friday but Jonjo O'Neill has ridden to the rescue with Minella Rocco, who made a few eyes water with a deeply impressive debut at Kempton the other day, and the former winning Irish pointer can defy a penalty in the novice hurdle (2.30) at the Berkshire course.
Lizzie Kelly’s finest hour in the saddle came upon Tea For Two, who she rode to a thrilling success at Kempton last month, and the aspiring young rider can enjoy another success in a breakthrough season courtesy of After Eight Sivola, who runs in a competitive handicap hurdle (3.50) at Ludlow on Thursday.
There has been a sweet kind of symmetry about Jonjo O'Neill’s recent return to form, with Cheltenham on the horizon and Aintree soon to follow, the stable is happily back among the winners and likely to enjoy another success courtesy of Mackerye End in the handicap hurdle (3.20) at Bangor on Wednesday.
Roll on Saturday’s jumps racing might well be the most sensible response to Tuesday’s cards at Catterick and Leicester, but the action is always lively at the latter track and in the first of the two hunter chases (3.20), the tough and consistent Palypso De Creek can follow up his recent Wetherby success.
The best is saved until last at Ayr on Monday as the lightly-raced No Deal looks another Scottish-based winner for trainer Lucinda Russell in the staying handicap chase (4.50) at the West of Scotland course.
Hardly a Saturday goes by without Paul Nicholls landing a big race winner and the stable’s lightly-raced and progressive young chaser Easter Day holds strong claims of maintaining the yard’s exemplary strike-rate by winning Kempton’s Betbright Handicap Chase, the day’s most valuable race (3.50) on Saturday.
When Friday dawns in a racing week, it is usually a cue for Nicky Henderson to send out a novice hurdle or bumper winner. Despite the stable’s conspicuous lack of success on high-profile Saturdays, the little fish have kept Seven Barrows sweet this season and Maestro Royale can keep up the good work by landing the novice hurdle (2.10) at Warwick today.
Another poor turn-out at Huntingdon on Thursday makes it possible to fit the card’s thirty-one runners into the Royal Hunt Cup field and still boast some slack. On a brighter note, Musselburgh’s 3.30 has drawn a competitive field and perhaps the handicap debutante, Ginger Jack, can get off the mark over hurdles at the third time of asking for trainer, Keith Dalgleish.
John Ferguson’s hurdlers tend to go well at Doncaster where the long home straight seems to play to the strengths of his mainly ex-Flat racers and the stable’s Devilment can exploit this fact and land the juvenile hurdle (2.55) on Town Moor today.
Alan King has struggled this season to squeeze a win from his useful mare Avispa but the step up in trip and the prospect of facing weaker opposition in the mares’ novice (2.40) at Taunton on Tuesday should do the trick.