Two races for us this afternoon, both at Newcastle. The going is soft and frost sheets were deployed throughout the course to counter the overnight drop in temperature. A dry and cold day is forecast. Whilst conditions are still on the testing side – For the first time in a long time, none of today’s meetings are in heavy ground.
2.50 Newcastle Eider Handicap Chase (Class 2)
Wide open handicap as the seventeen declared contest for the £85,000 on offer.
Ballyculla is of great interest, with the stamina test expected to suit. His last appearance was at Bangor in early December over 3 miles in heavy ground. Headed two out, he battled back to win well. Ran above market expectations at the Cheltenham Festival in the amateur chase on the first day. Warren Greatrix’s assessment of Ballyculla: “I think he’s a better horse than last year, he’s much stronger, and he really ought to be very competitive off this sort of mark. He’s got to have a great chance.”
The 8yo Cork Citizen is a vastly experienced Irish pointer who joined David Pipe last December. Returned to form on his latest and only start so far for his new stable. With Tom Scudamore off to Chepstow, the ride goes to David Noonan. His 5lb claim is a positive.
Impossible race to price accurately. I go:
Ballyculla 7/1 fav.
Rocking Blues 10/1
Cork Citizen 10/1
And to emphasise the competitiveness of the race, I have half of the rest between 10/1-14/1.
3.25 Newcastle Betfred Lotto Novices Hurdle (Class 3)
Bun Doran impressed on latest start at Haydock in January over 2m 3f. Made all and eased down for a very comfortable victory. The longer trip here can bring further improvement.
Expected to prove hard to beat. I make him my 6/4 favourite, best current price is 5/4.
The Festival will soon be upon us. Advance bookings are now being taken for the Cheltenham special membership and preview. Along with all the regular contributions, I am pleased to announce that Micky Hammond will also be adding his thoughts. My congratulations to his assistant trainer Gemma Hogg who won the top prize at the 2016 Godolphin Stud and Stable awards ceremony this week.
Your Cheltenham special subscription goes directly to racing charity to support our valuable stable staff. For more details and to book your place, please go to: http://www.slh.co.uk/index.php/cheltenham-special-2016