Nick Scholfield takes you through his rides this weekend and gives his thoughts on the big races at Sandown and Aintree.
It’s been a frustrating week for me this week with four second-placed finishes, but we’re knocking on the door which is the main thing and I have four really nice rides this weekend that I’m looking forward to.
On Saturday I’m off to Sandown for what should be a big day of racing. First up for me is ELLENS WAY in the 12.40 for Jeremy Scott. She should have come on a bundle for her reappearance run at Wincanton last month and she has a win to her name from last season which the form reads pretty well. In a perfect world I’d like to see the ground a bit softer but Saturday looks an open race and I think her mark of 119 is one she is definitely capable of winning off.
Next up is the big one in which I ride my old friend SAN BENEDETO in the Tingle Creek. He’s a really consistent horse who regularly runs to a mark of around 160 which should put him in the mix for a place. I won a Grade 1 Novice Chase on him last season at Aintree where he had a couple of Saturday’s rivals behind him that day and he didn’t disgrace himself at the course in the Celebration Chase behind Altior back in April so I’m quietly confident he can run into the places.
Of the rest, Fox Norton is rightly the favourite and was impressive last time out at Cheltenham. He’s perhaps one that doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves for what he’s achieved and he will be hard to beat. Paul Nicholls’ other runner in the race is Politologue who my ride finished behind in the Haldon Cup back in November. I was impressed with him that day and Sandown looks made for him as it’s a real test of your jumping and this guy loves doing just that.
I’ve never seen a slowly run Tingle Creek and I expect it to be full throttle from the off with Ar Mad and Charbel both more than capable of making the running. There certainly won’t be any hiding place out there and the winner on the day will be the one who can get into the best rhythm and jump with the most fluency.
Finally for me on the day I’m on board DANCING SHADOW in what looks a really competitive handicap. He won gamely for me on his first run of the season and that should have given him plenty of confidence. He’s run well at Sandown in the past and stays all day so should relish the 3m5f trip. However, it does look a strong race and one that could be worth following the form of through the season, but I’m convinced this chap has a big handicap in him this season.
Also on Saturday, the Grade 1 Novice chase looks the strongest one of its kind so far this season. As I mentioned above, it’s really key at Sandown to jump well and find a rhythm so it will be a big test for these relatively inexperienced chasers. The favourite Brain Power was mighty impressive at Kempton on his first start over the larger ones where he jumped with real pace and was slick throughout. There are a couple in there who have as the extra run over fences including his main market rival Finian’s Oscar and that could prove the difference.
Up at Aintree the Becher looks as competitive as ever with plenty in there with Grand National form in the book. Saturday looks like being a real test though so you need one who will really relish the heavy ground. Blaklion is obviously the class horse in the race and will be hoping to show his National credentials later in the season. Having said that, Saturday’s race is a good one in its own right with a big pot to play for.
On to Sunday and I have the one ride at Huntingdon in the Listed Mares’ Bumper for trainer Jack Barber. L’CHAMISE was bang there on her first start back in October at Aintree in a race that has worked out really well since. I really liked what she showed me that day and she just tired in the last furlong. She comes into Sunday’s race fresh and the ground and track should suit too so I’m hopeful of our chances.
That’s it for me this week. I hope you enjoy all of the top class racing in store this weekend and hopefully you can find a winner or two.