THIS is the last good quality weekend of jumps racing before the Cheltenham Festival and I'm looking forward to plenty of thrills and spills, particularly at Kempton where I reckon Chris Gordon is going to have a big day.
We also have two quality flat races on the all weather at Lingfield and we have previewed the full programme of ITV4 races on this week's Gambla Racing Podcast. Have a listen and let us know what you think:
My thoughts and tips for the ITV4 races are as follows:
This is a good quality novice chase to start of the ITV4 coverage. The two that I narrowed it down to were COMMANCHE RED and Southfield Stone and I'm going to side with the Chris Gordon trained Commnache Red due in part to his course and distance win last time out. I backed him that day and he was very well supported in the market (not my cash I promise) and won nicely. That was a handicap for novices so we are stepping up in quality but he is the top rated horse in this race and I think he can win. I expect Southfield Stone to continue to improve as a chaser and I think he will be the main danger although Master Tommytucker could also go close if he can stay on his feet.
This is tough renewal of the Adonis hurdle in which to find a bet. It is probably a two horse race between Solo and Fujimoto Flyer but there is always the strong possibility that one of the outsiders can improve significantly and scoop the pot. I don't have a strong opinion or angle into the race so it's NO BET for me.
I see this one being relatively straightforward. Good Effort is in excellent form at the moment, is a course winner and is now officially rated a bit better than the rest of these. Watchable might be the one who runs him close. EDIT: Since the podcast was recorded Good Effort is now a non-runner so my alternative selection is WATCHABLE
The Kingwell Hurdle has been rearranged from last week's abandoned fixture at Wincanton and could well be a good indicator for the Champion Hurdle at the festival given the lack of strength in depth this year. Ch'tibello has obvious chances and Elgin would be very interesting if returning to his best form but he has been off for nearly 2 years. The one that intrigues me is DIEGO DU CHARMIL who hasn't run over hurdles for about 3 years but is in excellent form over fences at the moment. If he can translate that form back to hurdles he would be the best of these and I expect him to go very close.
The Eider Chase is a war of attrition at the best of times but with the forecast heavy ground and strong winds it will take a big effort just to complete the 4 mile marathon. The one that I fancy to run well at a surprisingly big price is FINANCIAL OUTCOME for Rebecca Curtis. He is still a novice chaser with some potential and I think this marathon trip could bring out the best in him. He will have no problem with the heavy ground and his light weight at the bottom of the handicap could come in handy.
I am quite keen on another Chris Gordon runner here and I think he could have a big day (check out Top Man in the 12.40pm race at Kempton too at big odds). HIGHWAY ONE O TWO has won his two hurdles races in nice style and although he wasn't racing against much quality I think there should be plenty more improvement to come from him. I think his main market rival Buzz from the Nicky Henderson yard hasn't done enough to justify his shorter price. I'm also recommending a small each way interest in BATHSHEBA BAY for Paul Nicholls who hasn't set the heather on fire with his performances so far but has won his last two races and they won't be pitching him into a Grade 2 race for no reason. He is a huge price so a small each way could give us a nice return.
Back onto the all weather surface for the Winter Derby at Lingfield which is one of the highlights of the all weather season. The market suggests that it's a two horse race and I would agree. DUBAI WARRIOR is the one that I prefer ahead of Bangkok because there isn't too much between them in terms of ratings and they are both course and distance winners but Dubai Warrior's price is a good bit better. His run last time out here was his best run yet and I'm hoping that the master John Gosden can bring a little bit of extra improvement out of him which could be enough to win this.
The last race of the day is an intriguing handicap chase over 3 miles and the two that I have narrowed it down to are Whatmore from the Henry Daly yard and HIGHWAY ONE O ONE for Chris Gordon again. Daly has to be taken seriously with progressive horses like Whatmore and I may have a small each way bet on the horse but my main selection is Highway One O One who I have backed before with an each way return. I still think the horse has more improvement to come and we can ignore his last race at Cheltenham where it looks like he doesn't enjoy the undulating track. The 3 miles round Kempton are good for him as he showed when 3rd in December here and without being too critical of Jamie Moore he perhaps would do things differently if he ran the race again. He went to the front very early and set himself up as a target after Speredek went far too fast in front of him and faded quickly. Our boy was only beaten a length in third and Leighton Aspell rides him more patiently I think he can get his head in front at a big price.
12:00 Sedgefield - Race: 1
12:20 Yarmouth - Race: 1