Newbury: one of the feature meetings on Saturday
By Keith Melrose 7:00PM 3 MAR 2017
THIS weekend we are going forward before we come back.
It is too close to Cheltenham now for what transpires to have a hugely significant effect on what happens there, besides a few rated in the low-130s desperately searching for deals in Gloucestershire on laterooms.com.
Look over Cleeve Hill, if you can, and there’s the small matter of the Grand National a few weeks on. The Betbright-sponsored Grimthorpe (3.35) was the race that launched The Last Samuri towards Aintree 12 months ago and he might well have been first rather than second last April had the rain not fallen like it did on Merseyside.
He is back at Doncaster on Saturday, 12lb higher than for his deeply-impressive win over The Druids Nephew. He has since been a close third in the Becher, so he remains on course for another tilt at the National as it stands.
That need not be derailed should The Last Samuri, who represents the bang-in-form Kim Bailey yard, be beaten from a mark of 161 here. That is probably just as well, as though thin on numbers the competition here is deep on dangers.
Definitly Red (another nightmare for sub-editors) and Yala Enki have both been emphatic winners of big staying prizes this winter. Looking Well was second in the SkyBet here a few weeks back and few would be as well suited by the slog that looks likely to transpire than Sego Success, who does admittedly have to put recent efforts behind him.
Over at Newbury, the feature Greatwood Gold Cup (3.15) is a gathering for all sorts, from the Cheltenham nearly-horses up to a National trial, Big Fella Thanks having won it before finishing a long-threatening fourth at Aintree in 2010.
The unifying theme is how the race has been used to great effect by Paul Nicholls down the years. Nicholls has never looked a near-£30k gift horse in the mouth and has won the race eight times (including a dead-heat). Not bad for a race that was inaugurated only in 2004.
Nicholls is doubly represented this year. The likelier of his pair judging by the market is Vibrato Valtat, whom we might say is out of the winning habit. More Buck’s, who enjoyed a successful autumn, is the champion trainer’s other arrow to throw.
What’s on besides these big handicaps?
Handicaps supported by more handicaps is unfortunately the sensible plan of action on a Saturday so close to the festival.
There is a veterans’ race at Newbury (2.05), which has plenty of names you will know and another who might be on the National path. O’Faolains Boy, injured for so much of the last two seasons, now faces another race against time to prove himself ready for Aintree after being pulled up on his reappearance.
At Doncaster there is a Listed mares’ novice hurdle (3.00) featuring Happy Diva and Lastbutnotleast. However, the highest grading of race on offer is at Kelso, where the Grade 2 Premier Kelso Novices’ Hurdle (3.25), like the Grimthorpe, lacks numbers but not quality.
Capitaine, which has lured Sam Twiston-Davies north of the border, Chalonnial and Mount Mews have all shown form worthy of the grade.
What about Meydan?
Four weeks on from Newbury’s take, Meydan hosts Super Saturday, the warm-up for Dubai World Cup Night later in the month. There is a Group 2, two Group 3s and a Listed race to support the two Group 1s for followers of Dubai racing to get stuck into.
It is far from parochial, as the Dubai City Of Gold, the Group 2, features Postponed in his first run since being a beaten favourite in the Arc.
The two Group 1s are the Al Maktoum Challenge (Round 3), which features Furia Cruzada and Second Summer. The feature Jebel Hatta, often an indicator for the Dubai Turf, features strong representation from Britain and other foreign jurisdictions. Decorated Knight and Muffri’Ha lead the way for the UK while Light The Lights and Ertijaal lead the way for Mike De Kock.
Where can I watch it?
Four races from Doncaster (the 1.50 and 2.25 as well as the 3.00 and 3.35) and three from Newbury (2.05, 2.40 and 3.15) will be shown on ITV1, not ITV4 as initially scheduled.
Racing from Kelso will be shown on RUK, while both ATR and RUK will be showing Meydan.