IT'S really taken me quite some time to whittle today's choices down a bit and I've still ended up with a few picks.
The big race of the weekend would ordinarily be the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury but the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle is also massively intriguing this year with a really strong field lining up. It's a real feast for us to get our teeth into.
A tentative selection here to get the day started off with PASSING CALL who I think looks potentially quite classy and there is often an underestimation of jumps horses who have performed well during the summer as this mare has. He looks to be a good value selection against the two at the top of the market.
This is a really good race in prospect but as someone who thinks that SANTINI is likely to be the best staying novice chaser in the UK this season I have to back him to get the job done here.
Everything he achieved over hurdles last season was a bonus because this tall lad is built to be a classy staying chaser. Kilbricken Storm may give him the most to do but I expect Santini to reverse the form from last season's Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Mr Big Shot is a horse to follow closely this season but I expect to see him popping up in a valuable handicap rather than a race like this.
I must admit to being a big fan of Champ who is the favourite in this race but I think the handicapper really hasn't given him much leeway for his handicap debut.
That might prove to be fair in the long term but in the short term it allows SPEEDO BOY to take advantage as a horse coming off some great form on the flat who won very nicely over hurdles at Cheltenham last time out.
This one is mouthwatering with three of the Grade 1 hurdle winners from the Cheltenham Festival all lining up against each other. Although Buveur D'Air has to be respected as a dual Champion Hurdle winner and Samcro is thought of as the greatest thing to come out of Ireland since Guinness, I think a possible surprise could be in the works here.
At the current pricesSUMMERVILLE BOY is the one that I would side with here. He has huge potential this season and although Samcro is well thought of he was frankly quite poor on seasonal debut at Down Royal and I wouldn't be backing him until I had seen evidence that he had improved over the season.
Buveur D'Air is classy but he isn't the greatest Champion Hurdle winner of all time and if Summerville Boy can improve a bit I think he has the potential to dominant the 2 mile hurdle division this season starting with this race today.
Despite the fairly dreadful name of this horse SUNNYTAHLIATEIGAN looks to have a really good chance today. Ian Williams looks to have targeted him for the race and he gets the benefit of Edward Austin's 7lb claim over a trip that is likely to suit him nicely after a pipe opener for the season last time.
I have huge admiration for Henry Daly and he saddles WHATMORE here at a cracking each way price in my view. The horse absolutely cruised up last time in a lesser race than this but he did it in style and there is no doubt that Henry Daly will have left a bit to work on for the rest of the season.
The drop to 2 miles will be a bonus for a horse who can pull quite hard at times and it looks to be between him and Ballymoy in this race for me. Given the prices the each way bet on Whatmore is very appealing.
Last but not least is the feature race of the day from Newbury, the Ladbrokes Trophy. Last season I made a note in my horse tracker for one of my favourite horses THE YOUNG MASTER which simply said: “NEVER BACK HIM AGAIN. Gone at the game.” The horse hadn't won since his brave victory in the Bet365 Gold Cup chase at Sandown in April of 2016 and looked like he had fallen out of love with the sport.
However, I am delighted to have seen him win twice so far this season on both starts (without a penny of support from me I should add) and whatever Neil Mulholland and his team have been doing it looks to have worked. The horse looks like the classy staying chaser he was back in 2015 and 2016 and I am now in a position where I can't ignore the evidence in front of my eyes.
He only has to carry a 4lb penalty for his win at Cheltenham last time so that leaves him 3lb better off with his new official mark and somewhere between 9lb and 11lb lower than his best performances in the past. The horse is thriving once again so I have to back him today and not just for old time's sake either. Go on the Master!