Our racing expert gives his verdict on the four Newbury races being shown live on ITV this afternoon.
1:50 2m4f (2m3f187y) Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase (Registered As The Berkshire Novices’ Chase) (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Yanworth was a class act over hurdles and he made the perfect start to his chasing career when landing the odds at Exeter in October. It was disappointing then to see him hit the deck on his return to that track, prompting some ‘experts’ to suggest a switch back to the smaller obstacles. But his trainer Alan King is having none of that and it’s clear from comments in his Weekender column that he thinks the horses is still capable of making up into a top novice and can silence his doubters this afternoon.
He makes little appeal at odds-on, however, and especially with WILLOUGHBY COURT in opposition. Last season’s Neptune winner was only workmanlike when winning on his chase debut at Huntingdon, but he’s going to keep on improving as he gets more match practice and the return to a left-handed track with help too. Nico de Bournville is likely to give him a fairly positive ride to help bring his stamina into play more, and expose any chinks in Yanworth’s staying power, and that earns him the pick at bet365’s 9/4.
2:25 2m4f (2m3f187y) Ladbrokes Open Handicap Chase (Class 2) (4yo+)
The classier sorts at the top of the handicap look to have their work cut out giving weight to a trio of up-and-coming youngsters, who are headed by Venetia Williams’ WILLIE BOY. The six-year-old made all over track and trip three weeks ago and that performance can be upgraded as he was harried for the lead by Greybougg, with the pair racing clear at one point. It all proved too much for the last-named who folded tamely away, but not so Willie Boy and it was to his credit that he still had enough in reserves to see multiple challengers in the home straight. A subsequent 6lb rise seems very fair then and with every likelihood of more to come, he’s going to be hard to pass.
Paul Nicholls’ Ridgeway Flyer has much more on his plate after small chase wins at Plumpton and Taunton and a bigger threat may come from Jameson. After winning a bumper and a hurdle for Nicky Henderson, he was getting off the mark over fences on just his second start for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Sandown (2m4f, good to soft) last month. Today’s left-handed track and better ground promise to suit him better and while a 10lb rise makes life harder, he won’t be far away.
3:00 3m (3m52y) Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+)
On all known form, this looks a match between last year’s winner Unowhatimeanharry, who proved his well-being with a win at Aintree on his reappearance, and King George hero THISTLECRACK, who is greatly favoured by today’s weights. Colin Tizzard’s stable star had a hard race when narrowly defeated by Many Clouds in January and the time off to recover should have done him plenty of good. He’s bound to be rusty after his layoff and this race is effectively a prep for a repeat King George bid, but I still think he’s the most likely winner and especially as he’s getting 6lb from the Fry runner.
Colin’s Sister looks the best of the remainder having taken her form to a another level when landing a Wetherby Grade 2 on her reappearance. The step up to 3m clearly suited her on that occasion and while she’s best when there is plenty of cut in the ground, she can still make her presence felt here.
3:35 3m (3m52y) Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-145)
Alan King’s BENEAGLES ran well when third over this course and distance on his reappearance in November and that run will have brought him on. The son of Milan is likely to be seen to best effect when sent chasing further down the line, but he still has the potential to rate better than his current hurdles mark of 127 and with a first-time visor to sharpen him up this afternoon, he may well prove good enough to land what is a competitive finale.
Tom George’s Boyhood was a ready winner at Lingfield last time despite showing signs of greenness and he too is capable of rating higher, so he may give the selection most to do.
All odds were correct at time of posting.