13:50 Saturday - Newbury

Focus on the favourite

Grand Sancy (7/2)

Having been a smart hurdler, Grand Sancy was thrown in the deep end when Paul Nicholls switched him to fences last season with his best effort in graded company coming when third in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton. It was not  until his final start of the campaign that he got off the mark in much calmer waters when landing the odds against one other finisher at Fontwell. Returning after a breathing operation (not his first), he was still eligible for novice chases in the autumn and won another three-runner contest, a listed event at Chepstow, by thirteen lengths from Paint The Dream. That made him an odds-on favourite for the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November but he trailed home last of the three runners behind Ga Law. Grand Sancy therefore has questions to answer on his return from a break, with his breathing problems reportedly resurfacing last time, but it’s worth noting his trainer’s excellent record in the race (see Stat to note).

An outsider to consider

The Russian Doyen (25/1)

The Russian Doyen makes his first start for Jeremy Scott having left Colin Tizzard’s stable since his last run in December which came over hurdles at Catterick. That followed two failures to complete over fences, including when pulled up after making mistakes in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham. His best effort this season came on his reappearance when he finished third over hurdles at Fontwell. That was his first start for almost a year after he was pulled up lame on his only outing the previous season.  The Russian Doyen is slipping down to an attractive mark, however, as he’s now 6 lb lower than for his last win which came over two miles at Newbury in a novices’ handicap just over two years ago.  He followed that by finishing fourth to A Plus Tard in the novices’ handicap at the Cheltenham Festival in which he shaped better than the bare result. If the change of yard has sparked a revival of that sort of form, he’d be interesting each-way off bottom weight.

A stat to note

Paul Nicholls has won more than half of the renewals of a race first run in 2004

Paul Nicholls’ first success came in 2006 when Cornish Sett dead-heated and since then he has trained the outright winner another eight times, most recently San Benedeto in 2019 when the race last took place. Besides Grand Sancy, he’s also represented by top weight Capeland who was successful under Daryl Jacob (back on board here) at Wincanton in January when he had Gala Ball, whom he meets again, a long way back. Capeland’s latest start at Ascot when he was always behind can probably be overlooked as little went right for him that day.   

The Verdict

Umbrigado is very much a chaser on the up and gets the nod to defy the handicapper with this return to a longer trip in his favour as he bids to follow up his latest win at Wetherby. The opposite applies to Senior Citizen, who didn't get home over 21f on very testing ground in the Grand Sefton and can make his presence felt from this mark back over shorter and on better ground. Paul Nicholls is seeking a sixth win in this since 2012 so Grand Sancy is also respected.

Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:

  • 165        Senior Citizen
  • 164p     Umbrigado
  • 163        Another Crick
  • 163        Windsor Avenue
  • 163?      Gala Ball
  • 162        Capeland

Umbrigado - 1pt @ 13/2