Another weekend of top-class action awaits jumps fans with a number of festival clues on offer as some of last year’s big players go head-to-head again.
LA BAGUE AU ROI - 12.20 Wetherby
Warren Greatrex’s 5yo has always been highly-regarded by connections and was sent off at just 2/1 for a Grade 2 bumper at Aintree in the spring. Impressive in winning her debut over hurdles 15 days ago at Uttoxeter, she’s now a winner of four of her five races. There are sure to be bigger targets for this mare later in the season and Saturday should prove another important step in her development.
DOCTOR HARPER - 13.50 Cheltenham
Favourite for the Kim Muir when unseating at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, David Pipe’s 8yo was a smart performer in bumpers and over hurdles earlier in his career and showed smart enough form novice chasing last season. Still potentially well handicapped, he’ll carry only 10st 6lb on Saturday and, if putting in a clear round of jumping, should have a say in the finish. No doubt there should be a big race in him this year and even if it’s not this weekend, he’s certainly one to keep on side.
MOVEWITHTHETIMES - 12.45 Cheltenham
Arguably one of the races of the weekend, the re-match between Moon Racer and Ballyandy will certainly be fascinating. But it’s Paul Nicholls' Movewiththetimes who is possibly the most intriguing runner in the race. The 5yo son of Presenting has only been seen on the racecourse twice and has been successful on both occasions, most recently when a very well-backed winner of a Fontwell novice hurdle. While the form of that win alone is not enough to build a particularly strong argument for the horse, the fact his much respected connections throw him in at the deep end so early on in his career is surely a sign they think plenty of him.
SIMONSIG - Cheltenham 13.55
Connections and race fans alike are excused for thinking 'what could have been?' when it comes to the ridiculously talented 10yo. After his spectacular win in the Arkle Chase back in 2013, he appeared to have the world at his feet. However, since then a series of injuries and niggles has meant he has only been seen on the racecourse three times, showing glimpses that the old flame still burns bright. Still, a lot will have to be taken on trust coming off the back of a 176-day break and up against younger, race-fit rivals. However, it’s hard to imagine there would be a more popular winner if Nicky Henderson’s charge could get his head back in front on Saturday. Whatever the outcome, here’s hoping we get to see plenty more of Simonsig over the coming months.
MARTELLO TOWER - 15.30 Navan
The Beginners' Chase at Navan on Sunday sees Margaret Mullins’ Cheltenham Festival winner Martello Tower make his debut over fences. A six-time winner to date, the 8yo was successful in his only point start back in 2013, so certainly should have the scope to jump a fence. Sunday’s trip looks a concern and there’s a definite risk he could well be taken off his feet and out of his comfort zone over the shorter trip. However, if he’s to be competing against better company later in the season he will need his jumping to hold up and Sunday’s race should be a good indicator as to whether he will be up to the task.