Sam Turner goes through the ITV Racing card on New Years Day and gives his picks.
WILLOUGHBY COURT (Best price 6-4) can make it the joy of six in this afternoon’s BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase.
Ben Pauling’s seven-year-old hasn’t been totally convincing in his new vocation over fences, but there were signs at Newbury last time he is learning on the job and beginning to hone his technique.
A ragged round of jumping at Huntingdon on his seasonal bow left Willoughby Court requiring all of his trademark battling qualities to retain an unbeaten sequence which stretches back 12 months and includes success in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
However, a switch to a left-handed track looked to work the oracle for the selection at Newbury as he produced a more precise round of jumping to account for today’s chief market rival Yanworth by three lengths.
Pauling has never hidden the esteem he holds for Willoughby Court and he can strengthen his Cheltenham festival credentials today.
INDIAN TEMPLE (Best price 5-1) made all to win this corresponding event two years ago and looks primed to go well again under similar conditions. There is every chance the selection needed his first run back at Wetherby recently (his first since August) but he still acquitted himself well and he could be hard to peg back if allowed to dominate.
The Scottish venue may get further rain before the race, but if the ground doesn’t deteriorate markedly, then Tim Reed’s nine-year-old may make a bold bid to make all.
SPLASH OF GINGE (Best price 11-1) looked to be taken out of his comfort zone in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup even though the official ground description was still soft. Conditions today are likely to be more in keeping with the BetVictor Gold Cup which saw the selection spring a 25-1 surprise, in part mainly thanks to his ability to move through desperate ground. Winner of this race in 2015, Splash Of Ginge didn’t jump quite as well as he can last time either and he may be seen in a better light now he tackles a severe test of stamina once more. I can’t resist having a saver on BURTONS WELL (Best price 4-1) who will be fresher than most and won on heavy ground at Uttoxeter last New Year’s Eve.
The resurgent SILVER CONCORDE (Best price 3-1), winner of the 2014 Cheltenham bumper, has been nursed back to form and given confidence by a couple of recent course victories. Although he may not have achieved a great deal in beating some exposed rivals, he has won in the manner of a horse going forward once more. A mark of 133 may not be enough to stop him completing a rapid track hat-trick today and he is narrowly preferred to Dear Sire, whose performance in a Chepstow Grade 2 last time was enhanced by the winner landing the Challow Hurdle yesterday.
Both Lovenormoney, who ploughed through the mud at Chepstow to score with authority, and gritty Catterick scorer Buckle Street make appeal here but narrow preference is for RED RISING (Best price 7-2) for whom Harry Skelton has been jocked up for a while. That move suggests this race has been the plan for some time for the unexposed hurdler who hacked up on good ground at Southwell last time. It is perhaps salient to remember he comfortably accounted for smart chaser Testify in a heavy ground Irish point prior to joining his current handler so today’s conditions should hold no terrors.
This doesn’t appear a vintage renewal of the Relkeel Hurdle, but that won’t matter one jot to in-form trainer Fergal O’Brien if COLIN’S SISTER (Best price 2-1) prevails.
Bottomless ground shouldn’t inconvenience the West Yorkshire Hurdle winner who may not have produced her best behind Beer Goggles at Newbury last month, but she wouldn’t have been alone that day and this test may play more to her strengths.
Colin’s Sister has already beaten Wholestone this season, while Old Guard may not be truly effective over this afternoon’s trip on very deep ground, so she looks to hold strong claims.
I toyed with risking a small wager on Anteros who looks a ridiculous price at 66-1 even if he has a fair bit to find on the figures. The first-time visor could sharpen up his finishing effort and he will love the ground more than most.