World Hurdle winner Cole Harden makes his eagerly-anticipated return at Newbury on Saturday.
On Wednesday we will take Bigbury Bay to Wetherby for the mares’ bumper. She has improved over the summer but she hasn’t been the easiest to train. It doesn’t look a bad bumper but I would expect a much better performance than on her sole start last year, where she was well beaten at Uttoxeter.
Bells ‘N’ Banjos, who runs in the handicap hurdle at Fontwell, has done well physically over the summer. He ran a couple of nice races last year but I think he’s probably improved. It’s his first run this season so he’s likely to come on for it but he’s in good form at home and there are only five in it, so he’s got to have a decent chance.
Newbury’s three-day Hennessy meeting gets underway on Thursday and we could have a couple of runners.
Top Dancer will probably have another crack at the handicap chase he won two years ago and I’m very happy with him. He’s been going well at home, where he has been schooled by my young amateur Ben Hicks, who will be riding him on Thursday. With Ben’s claim he can race off a lower mark than when he run the race so he’s got have a good chance.
I’m looking forward to getting going with point winner Fly Du Charmil who could make his debut for us in the bumper. He’s a lovely big horse who should be at home on a big galloping track like Newbury, and he’ll not mind the ground either. He’s not the quickest but he probably wouldn’t need to be to be honest. I’m not sure how good he is at this stage but I’m confident he’ll be able to give a good account of himself if he does run.
On Friday we could run Extreme Appeal, a former David Wachman inmate. He’s a big strong three-year-old who has schooled well but he wasn’t very highly-rated on the Flat so might struggle if there is something above average in here. That said, I think he’s improved since he came here and he does jump well.
The plan is to run Missed Approach in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle. He won three of his four starts back in 2014 although he’s been off since, he’s in really good form at home. He won’t mind the ground, the step up in trip trip will help and he will likely have a light weight, which will help his cause. He could run well.
Ceann Sibheal probably won’t be good enough in the novices’ hurdle. He’s on a learning curve at the moment but it’s only down the road so we might as well get another run into him. At this stage there will be far better horses than him.
Away from Newbury, The Missus could head up to Doncaster for the bumper. A full-sister to Radjhani Express, she had two runs for Robert Waley-Cohen before coming to me, and her work has been good. She needs to go left handed and this doesn’t look a great race so she could easily run well.
Saturday is a big day for everyone at Uplands and it will be a delight to have such a high-profile runner on Hennessy day. Suffice it to say, we are all very excited about seeing Cole Harden back on the track.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he got beat, given he got beat in the race last year but still went on to win at Cheltenham, but he’s as fit as he was when he won at Wetherby first-time out last year and he looks a million dollars. He worked this morning and will have one more piece of work before Saturday.
It wouldn’t be a major problem if the forecast rain arrives on Friday as it will hopefully make the ground easier to get through. It would be fine if it was sloppy but tacky ground would be a concern.
As last year, I'm expecting it to be a small field, with Whisper an obvious danger, while I would also respect Thistlecrack but it’s a big step up for a novice, tackling the likes of Cole, who can take him through the pain barrier.
We have another big chance at Newbury on Saturday in the shape of Aloomomo, who will run in the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase. He has won his last two races with considerable ease and is a highly promising and improving horse. He’s been put up a stone since his Warwick win but I am sure he will still be very competitive and I’m quite excited about him. It looked like it was shaping up to be a competitive race but there are quite a few exposed runners in there and so it might not be the strongest of Class 3 handicaps.
The Nipper will also run in the bumper at Bangor that day. She won a bumper by 20 lengths at that track last year and she’s done well over the summer. Her work has been very good and she has a great chance of winning again.
Hannah’s Princess has been ready to go for a while but we’ve been waiting for some decent ground with her. She could run at Doncaster on Saturday if it’s not too bad up there and she’s in great form.
I’m a big fan of Smad Place, I thought he ran well in the race last year and I really liked his prep run Kempton. Alan King’s horses are in good form and I would expect a big run from him.
You would have to be interested in Bobs Worth given how he won on debut and has an obvious chance at the weights but I just don’t know if he’s still in love with jumping fences.
All the best, Warren