Our resident tipster is opening his wallet for this afternoon's card at Newbury.
There’s some cracking jumps action to look forward to this afternoon with Newbury, Doncaster and Kelso all staging competitive cards, while there are two Grade 1s being staged on the final day of the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.
Both the Leopardstown races – Neville Hotels Novice Chase and Ryanair Hurdle (2.30pm) – are four-runner affairs and house a couple of odds-on favourites in No More Heroes and Nichols Canyon respectively. They’re hard to oppose and for those interested in getting financially involved the double pays 11/10 with bet365.
At Newbury, the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle (2.00pm) has attracted just three runners and Barters Hill is just 4/7 to beat his two rivals. They include LABEL DES OBEAUX – one of my 12 plays of Christmas – and Alan King’s charge is worth a small interest at the 10/3 on offer. A close second at Ascot on his British debut, he built on that when running out an impressive winner of a Grade 2 at Sandown last time, where his slick jumping was very much in evidence. King has made no secret of the high regard he holds for him and he is proven over this distance, which can’t be said of the favourite who is hugely respected nonetheless.
The Dan Skelton-trained KASAKH NOIR (another one of my ’12 plays’) runs in the opening juvenile hurdle (12.15pm) and it’ll be a surprise if he can’t defy a penalty for his success at the last meeting here. The French recruit hacked up by 16 lengths on that occasion and that was a surprise to his trainer who expected him to be “too keen” first time out, which suggests he will be even better here. Unfortunately he’s been priced up at odds-on – 10/11 best with Paddy Power – and that will put most punters off, but ante post backers might be advised to have a little on him at 20/1 for the Triumph Hurdle with Hills in anticipation of another easy success.
The best bet on the rest of the Newbury card is undoubtedly SILVERGROVE in the Betfred Mandarin Chase over 3m1f (1.25pm). Ben Pauling’s charge looked an unlucky loser last time as he was two lengths to the good after jumping the last only to veer left and unseat his rider on the run-in. This is a more competitive race, admittedly, but the seven-year-old is totally uneposed over fences and still looks well treated here despite a harsh 7lb rise. David Bass takes over from an amateur this afternoon.
A more speculative selection is the Rebecca Curtis-trained IMAGINE THE CHAT in the novices’ limted handicap chase (12.50), with 10/1 up for grabs. The winner of a Ffos Las bumper on his stable debut in December 2013, he’s been lightly-raced since then and was getting off the mark over hurdles at only the third time of asking at Bangor in April. But chasing was always going to be his game and it was no surprise to see him go off a well backed favourite on his chase/handicap debut at Chepstow in November, only to finish well beaten into eighth. Given his stable were badly out of sorts then and he would have needed the run, he’s got to be worth another chance off what looks a generous mark of 115.