Our racing expert has a tip for the each of the eight televised races.
1:30 Doncaster 1m2f (1m2f43y) Marathonbet Sportsbook British EBF Gillies Fillies’ Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo+)
There’s rain forecast for Friday evening and it wouldn’t surprise if the ground eased from the current good. That might be a problem for the forecast favourite Maid To Remember as she’s never run on ground slower than good, but it can only enhance the chances of BONA FIDE further. Dermot Weld’s daughter of Frankel coped well with yielding ground when winning a Gowran Park handicap last time and while this is tougher, she is clearly going the right way. But time is running out for her as connections have indicated she won’t be staying in training next year, so this is her big chance of picking up some black type to increase her paddock value. She may well prove good enough in an open contest and BetVictor odds of 13/2 seem pretty fair.
1:50 Wincanton 2m5½f (2m5f82y) Hunts Food Service Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) (4yo+)
Paul Nicholls targets this meeting and it would be a big surprise if his IF YOU SAY RUN wasn’t fit enough to do herself justice following a 231-day layoff. She came to hand early last season, winning on her reappearance at Chepstow in October (2m31/2f) before going in again at this track in December (2m), and her one poor effort at Newbury in March is easily forgiven as she had probably had enough. She stays at least this far, is on a workable mark (131) and, if the weather forecast is correct, will have the dig in the ground she needs to perform to her best. All in all she’s a worthy favourite at bet365′s 5/2.
2:05 Doncaster 6f (6f2y) Marathonbet Official Global Partner Of Manchester City Wentworth Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo+)
This looks a golden opportunity for DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT as he’s the best horse in the race on official ratings, having at least 3lb in hand over his rivals, and considerably more over most, and is taking a major drop in class after two highly creditable efforts at Group 1 level. Both of those were on testing ground, so any rain that falls is in his favour, and his draw in stall 16 (highest of all) might be an advantage too as it often pays to race close to the stands’ rail over the straight 6f here.
Laugh A Minute, his nearest rival in the betting and preferred by some bookmakers, hasn’t been since chasing home a subsequent Group 3 winner at Deauville in August. I doubt that absence will hinder him too much and he’s reportedly been working well at home, but his course and distance success in July was achieved against just three rivals and on much faster ground than he’s going to encounter here. Still, he’s preferred over Aidan O’Brien’s Could It Be Love, who tends to find little when push comes to shove, and Librisa Breeze, who has failed to sparkle on recent starts.
2:25 Wincanton 2m4f (2m4f35y) Jockey Club Ownership Syndicate “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Paul Nicholls has won four of the last five runnings and he relies on chase debutant Secret Investor, who completed a hat-trick over hurdles in last month’s Persian War at Chepstow and has always looked the type who would do even better over fences.
But I’m just favouring Harry Fry’s BAGS GROOVE as he has had more match practice over the bigger obstacles and having shaped nicely on his debut at Uttoxeter (2m), he looked very professional when getting off the mark over a more suitable trip at Ffos Las (2m5f). Jumping well behind the leaders, he proved far more streetwise at his fences than the eventual runner-up and given he showed a slight tendency to edge right over them, this track will suit him better.
2:40 Aintree 2m4f (2m3f200y) (Mildmay) Rewards4Racing Handicap Chase (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-150)
With Noel Fehily on the stable runners at Wincanton, Harry Fry has booked Barry Geraghty for HELL’S KITCHEN and that’s significant as the Irishman has a near 1-3 strike rate (9-31) when joining forces with the Dorset-based trainer – he also gets the leg up on Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry in the proceeding 2m4f hurdle.
Geraghty knows the selection well as he’s ridden him eight times previously, winning twice, and most recently at Kempton last Boxing Day, when jumping boldly and making all to win easily from a subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner. He finished lame when pulling up on his only subsequent start but that might be in his favour as he’s always been a headstrong sort who was likely to progress as he grows up. He could be a force to be reckoned with in handicap chases this season and given his scope for further progress, a mark of 145 shouldn’t be beyond him. UPDATE – the selection is proving easy to back – out to 11/2 from 100/30 – and that suggests he might need this first run back. The horse for money is Paul Nicholls’ Romain De Senam, who is now clear 3/1 favourite.
3:00 Wincanton 1m7½f (1m7f65y) Unibet Elite Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+)
I’m a bit annoyed that bookmakers have made IF THE CAP FITS favourite at around the 9/4 mark as I thought he’d be bigger with the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of We Have A Dream and Verdana Blue up against him. The former won five on the bounce last season and ended it with a rating of 156, while his stablemate is now up to 146 after winning on last month’s reappearance at Kempton, which gives him a fitness edge.
However, Harry Fry’s runner is just as exciting and could turn out to be the best of the trio as he’s a big, scopey sort with the potential to go the top of the 2m hurdles division. His only defeat in six starts came in a Listed bumper at Aintree and he was very impressive when bringing up a hat-trick over hurdles at Kempton on Boxing Day. A muscle tear kept him off the track after that, forcing him to miss the big spring festivals, but he’s reportedly done well for his break and this race has been the plan for a good while, so Fry is likely to have him fit.
3:15 Doncaster 1m4f (1m3f197y) Marathonbet November Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+)
I can’t say I’ve had much success in this race down the years – lumping on 2017 winner Swingit Gunner as a teenager is a distant memory – and I’m usually glad to see the back of the Flat after it, with the jumps stating to get more interesting.
So it’s with some trepidation that I’m going to put up RESHOUN as my idea of the winner at bet365’s 12/1 – they are paying out on five places and one quarter the odds so it makes sense to punt him each-way. He’s earned the vote on the basis he bounced back to winning form last time, with a good recent run being a requisite, and also has a course and distance success to his name, that coming on good to soft last October. Ground conditions may well be similar this time around and, if past results are a guide, he’s also well berthed in stall 18 as all of the last ten winners emerged from stall nine or higher. Just for good measure, he represents last year’s winning trainer/jockey combination of Ian Williams and Jim Crowley.
The dangers are too many to mention, although anyone thinking of siding with the forecast favourite My Lord And Master might want to reconsider given that Open Eagle, the winner in 2014, is the only market leader to oblige since 1995. He also has a low draw (stall six) to overcome.
3:35 Wincanton 3m1f (3m1f30y) Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+ 0-155)
A big field of 16 but a sub-standard one compared to last year given that the returning winner, Present Man, who carried 10st 9lb to victory and is now just 2lb higher after his form tailed off afterwards, has been allocated top weight of 11st 12lb. With Bryony Frost renewing the partnership and claiming 3lb off, the now eight-year-old must have every chance of a repeat and especially as he’s an early season type (5-8 in October and November) and clearly loves this track (three wins and three seconds from nine starts here).
But he’s not the only Paul Nicholls-trained with a chance and given the stable record – Nicholls has won it eight times, four in the last decade – it’s worth considering stablemates El Bandit and CAPTAIN BUCK’S. It would be some training feat if the former were to prevail as he’s been off since winning a novice on his chase debut at Warwick in May 2017 and his lack of experience might just find him out.
That can’t be said of Captain Buck’s, who has had eight tries over fences without winning, albeit he’s run well in defeat on several occasions, including when a staying on third over track and trip last time. He enjoys a 10lb pull with the winner Aunty Ann for the one and a half lengths he was beaten and, with today’s race promising to be more of a stamina test, he might just prove good enough off his low weight of 10st 6lb and with Daryl Jacob taking the reigns for the first time. He’s an each-way price too at Hills’ 11/1, though a saver on Present Man (11/2) is recommended.
Doncaster 1.30, Bona Fide @ 13/2 BetVictor
Wincanton 1.50, If You Say Run @ 5/2 bet365
Doncaster 2.05, Donjuan Triumphant @ 4/1 Hills
Wincanton 2.25, Bags Groove @ 11/8 Hills
Aintree 2.40, Hell’s Kitchen @ 11/2 bet365
Wincanton 3.00, If The Cap Fits @ 9/4 Boylesports
Doncaster 3.15, Reshoun each-way @ 12/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 184.108.40.206.5)
Wincanton 3.35, Captain Buck’s @ 11/1 Hills / Present Man (saver) @ 11/2 Hills
All odds were correct at time of posting.