These couple of weekends before the Cheltenham Festival have a feel of the calm before the storm somewhat with all due respect to those horses racing. Kelso actually hosts the race of the day Saturday with their Grade Two Edinburgh Gin Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle whilst Doncaster and Newbury play the supporting role.
On the All-Weather they go at Lingfield in the afternoon and Chelmsford City in the evening on their respective Polytrack surfaces.
My first pun is in the 5f Betway Casino Handicap at 2.50. Royal Birth, Corinthia Knight, Gracious John and Ornate all face-off again having finished second, third, fourth and fifth respectively in the Listed Hever Sprint Stakes last weekend. They raced off levels that day meaning Ornate is far better off at the weights here getting 6lb from Royal Birth and Gracious John and 11lb from Corinthia Knight plus Phil Dennis takes off another 3lb. He never quite got across from the widest draw last week with Gracious John keeping him off the rail and perhaps had to do more than ideal early – was eased in final furlong when the chance of victory had gone. He breaks from stall 5 today with most of the other early speedsters outside him. If he can get the rails from Verne Castle, the early lead danger, he could go very close here and I was surprised to see him at 12-1 so grabbed a bit of that thank you very much each-way.
Straight after at 3.20, it’s the Sun Racing No1 Racing Site Handicap over a mile. I put up Sha La La La Lee on 6th February when 2nd at Wolverhampton over seven on his return to action following 202 days off the track. He held them all off barring Documenting who trotted up and is now rated 101. He should be fitter for that and is more than capable of leading here and I think will skip clear on this track. I have 9-2. Insurgance has been running well but I think he remains plenty high enough in the ratings.
Six will line-up for the 7f Listed Ladbrokes Spring Cup Stakes at 3.50 and Chynna caught my eye earlier in the week from the entries and is an interesting one from the yard of Mick Channon. She was running well at the end of last season finishing 3rd in the G.3 Weld Park Stakes at Naas and 2nd in the Listed Bosra Sham Stakes at HQ when last seen. That’s fair form at this level and as a bonus, she gets 5lb from the colts here. Hopefully, the grey is raring to go after 4 months off and I have the 5-1. Deep Intrigue has been winning on the sand this winter already and is the danger to my eye.
I fancy a couple later at Chelmsford City the first in the 1m6f Extra Places At Totesport.com Handicap off at 6.30. Temur Kham changed ownership and moved to the yard of Tony Carroll in December and since the change he’s form figures read 2, 1, 1, both those wins coming over 1m4f at Southwell in January. The Fibresand racing surface up there is a good stamina test suggesting the step-up to 1m6f here on Polytrack should be fine and the geldings preference for being prominent is no bad thing here on the Essex track either. Rated 81 he gets in off bottom-weight and with more likely to come yet a chance is taken at the 5-1.
For me, it is interesting that Jane Chapple-Hyam has dropped Mochalov to 6f for the first time in the Bet In Play At totesport.com Handicap at 7.30 following his 7f win here a couple of weeks ago. The lightly raced 4yo likes to race prominently and as mentioned earlier that’s no bad thing here. The gelding was second over a mile earlier on in February and I would like to see him gushed out of stall four by Danny Brock and make this a real test of six furlongs. I have a bit of the 5-2. Foreign Legion arrives off the back of four wins but has shot up the weights as a result and the handicapper may have him in his grip now.