It is a very busy Saturday here and across the Irish Sea so I will start with the bets for Saturday and look at other matters later in the post. They host a decent little meeting at Lingfield with two Listed heats on the card and that is where I am concentrating.
They head-off for just shy of two-miles in the Betway Casino Handicap at 1.25. The five-year-old grey Author's Dream is on a career high mark of 75 but won with what appeared to be plenty in hand over C&D on his last outing back in January. He trotted up over two-miles at Wolverhampton prior to that and has been a different animal since equipped with a visor. The headgear unsurprisingly remains on and the 8lb rise in the weights might not be enough to anchor him just yet. Martin Harley in the saddle clearly gets on well with him and a bold bid for a hat-trick for the pair is expected. I have the 7-2.
At 2.00 the Listed Betway Cleves Stakes over the six is quite an open looking affair with several in with chances. Kachy won well last time over C&D, I went against him, and has to be on the shortlist but the draw has not been kind. Kimberella and Lancelot Du Lac are both decent at their best whilst Caspian Prince is quick but probably suited to shorter. The Tom Dascombe trained five-year-old has been in with some of the best and if arriving in the same mood as 15 days ago will take some beating. Ideally, I would bet after the first furlong to see if he has broken well enough and got a good position but the Bookies are funny about that! Finger crossed he gets a run as I have 7-2.
3.05 the Listed Betway Winter Derby Trial Stakes over 1m2f. Ryan Moore rides Victory Bond for William Haggas and the five-year-old looks the pick. He was second in the Listed Churchill Stakes over track and trip when last here last back end and he looked in fine fettle winning at Wolverhampton in January as he liked at odds-on. The old satchel swingers haven’t taken any chances as he is 11-8 but looks solid. Petite Jack loves it here and is feared most.
Later at Kempton Charlie Appleby sends Night Castle to make his racecourse debut in the seven furlong 32red On The App Store Novice Stakes at 6.15. Nicely bred being by Dubawi out of Rock Opera the gelding is a half-brother to Heavy Metal who won the G.2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 last month out in Dubai. I would be amazed if he doesn’t prove a decent horse as his career develops and I will be taking a chance he can get off to a winning start at the best price I can grab (no prices Friday evening).
There is plenty going on this weekend as the Jumps season steps up yet another gear in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival; a lot has been said and written in regards to the Festival becoming the be all and end all of the winter game but at this time it is what it is and quite frankly it is! With that in mind, a number of the races are probably best watched rather than punted in with the March shindig the main aim for most. A few big names will be long odds-on taking part in what is little more than a public gallop and others are running with points to prove in regards to their fitness and/or ability.
JP McManus has three of his main Festival hopes out to show their wellbeing in the shape of top hurdlers Buveur D'Air (long odds-on at Sandown), Defi Du Seuil and Jezki (taking on Faugheen out in Ireland). Faugheen is the headline act among eight going for the for the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown. Having looked as good as ever in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November he will be odds-on but is on a recovery mission after being pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period. British raider Defi Du Seuil, last season's outstanding juvenile, has not run since disappointing on his comeback at Ascot in late November, after which trainer Philip Hobbs reported the horse produced scopes that "weren't quite right". Gordon Elliott's unbeaten six-year-old Samcro will be stretching his legs and goes in the G.1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown but is another at odds-on! Stable companions Min and Yorkhill will lock horns at Leopardstown also on Saturday after both were declared for the Coral Dublin Chase and Footpad and Petit Mouchoir are set to face-off in the Irish Arkle clash.