There are only a few short weeks to the Cheltenham Festival, and the weekend past threw up further clues towards the ‘greatest show on turf’; there are sure to be even more to come in the days and weeks ahead before the biggest week in the National Hunt calendar, and this week gets underway with a three-fixture programme which sees jumps racing from both Catterick and Plumpton, and all-weather action at Wolverhampton.
Plumpton (jumps) – 2.00 – 4.30pm (6 races)
Catterick (jumps) – 2.10 – 4.40pm (6 races)
Wolverhampton (flat, aw) – 2.20 – 5.50pm (8 races)
(2.30) ROYAL SALUTE
) arrives on a hat-trick of wins, having scored back-to-back successes over this course and distance under today’s rider for trainer Anthony Honeyball.
The Flemensfirth gelding was also a winner at Fontwell in November, and he has posted solid runs inbetween those successes with in-the-frame efforts at Ffos Las and Wincanton. Having looked to win with something up his sleeve last time in beating Talk Of The South, he has been raised 5lbs in the weights which may not be enough to anchor his progress back at this venue, and he can land the three-timer at the expense of the standard-setting Minella On Line whose jumping can be erratic.
Royal Salute arrives in search of a hat-trick of wins at Plumpton.
(3.00) DING DING
) has a good record at this venue, winning twice and making the frame on two other occasions from seven starts, and Sheena West’s charge can register a third win.
The Winker Watson mare has twice finished runner-up in her last two starts, most recently when being beaten just over one length behind the reopposing Amron Kali at Fontwell; and she wasn’t beaten far on her previous try at this trip behind Kayflin here in January.
This is slightly tougher having been raised 5lbs in the weights on the back of those efforts, but with conditions no problem and being better off at the weights she can give a good account to get in the frame again at this venue.
2.00 – Phoeniciana
2.30 – Royal Salute
3.00 – Ding Ding
3.30 – Gardiners Hill
4.00 – Itoldyou
4.30 – Work
(2.40) Despite having to carry a big-weight in this contest, ALMOST GEMINI
) is worth sticking with to get back on the scoresheet.
Ken Slack’s charge won three times over hurdles last term, as well as notching up a heavy ground success on the flat; and the Dylan Thomas gelding was still travelling well when clipping heels with a rival and falling at Sedgefield last time.
He’s not been seen since, but he has gone well fresh in the past and contests off the same mark for this return which looks workable. Assuming he is fit to go after his absence, he should be competitive with underfoot conditions no issue and he can go close here.
Brian Hughes can get amongst the winners at Catterick with Milly Baloo.
(3.10) MILLY BALOO
) hasn’t looked the most straightforward in recent runs, but they have come in a higher grade than this contest and Tim Easterby’s charge may be able to get back on the scoresheet.
The Desideratum mare last won at Market Rasen on Boxing Day 2015, beating Money Maid; but she can usually be relied upon to run her race and she often makes the frame as she did so on her return from seven months off to finish runner-up back at that venue behind Susie Sheep.
Although well-beaten last time at Kelso behind Two Smokin Barrels, she is given another chance taking a drop back in grade and having also been dropped 2ls in the weights; and she can exploit those conditions to open her chase win account under Brian Hughes.
2.10 – Same Circus
2.40 – Almost Gemini
3.10 – Milly Baloo
3.40 – Beeno
4.10 – Nortonthorpelegend
4.40 – Brecon Hill
(3.20) PIVOT MAN
) has been running consistently well in recent outings, scoring at Nottingham in October last year and posting a series of in-the-frame efforts prior to resuming winning ways here in January with a clear-cut defeat of Roman De Brut.
Mick Easterby’s Pivotal gelding wasn’t seen to best effect under a penalty earlier this month at Chelmsford, where he finished fourth behind Boychick and beaten around six lengths; but back at this venue where he boasts a decent record he may be able put that lesser run behind him to get back on the winning trail here.
Mick Easterby's Pivot Man can go close at Wolverhampton.
) was beaten only a half-length at Wolverhampton in January behind topsoil, and Alex Hales’ Dandy Man filly can go one better.
She may well have won but for meeting trouble-in-running behind the enterprisingly ridden winner; and she has been raised only 2lbs in the weights which doesn’t look harsh given the manner in which she finished off the race.
Still unexposed after just four starts, she could have more to offer and with Adam Kirby up this time around it appears connections are looking for some compensation. Assuming she can avoid traffic problems this time around, she looks the one to beat and with the potential for better she can get off the mark.
2.20 – Flood Warning
2.50 – My Rosie
3.20 – Pivot Man
3.50 – Coillte Cailin
4.20 – Miss Dusky Diva
4.50 – Dandilion
5.20 – Frank The Barber
5.50 – Siege Of Boston