It's a superb Saturday headed by the Betfair sponsored Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, and on hand to guide us through the Saturday action is Daryl Carter...
"It's been a remarkably quick fall in the weights for Glen Forsa, who was competing in better company than today off a handicap mark of 150 back in the 2019/20 season and even went up to a mark as high as 154."
Welcome to super Saturday, where the action is beyond spectacular and with Betfair sponsoring three races at Newcastle, including the excellent Grade 1 Fighting Fifth, it would be rude not to give those contests our full attention.
Ok, we will throw in a sprinkle of Newbury given it's their biggie as well.
Money Talk continues to highlight the Betfair Sportsbook big-money moves to keep you in the loop. This section highlights Friday evening market moves from opening show.
The market drifters!
Which horse(s) is the Betfair Sportsbook is on the drift?
Mark your card - Newcastle
The Betfair Sportsbook is paying extra places today!
The first of three races we sponsor at Newcastle is the 13:30 Novice Chase, a tight knitted four runner handicap in which Alan King's Valleres 1.910/11 heads the market.
Alan King has had just six runners at this Newcastle venue, and he has scored with two of those (both over hurdles).
Of Valleres' three rivals, trainer Stuart Coltherd saddles Coopers Cross 4.03/1, who looks sure to be suited by this step up in trip for the first time, but the trainer only has a 6% strike rate here. Evan Williams saddles Winds Of Fire 5.59/2, but he is zero for eleven at Newcastle.
Brian Ellison, in turn, has an 18% strike rate over fences here and saddles the outsider of the field Tupelo Mississippi 6.511/2, who sports the first-time cheek-pieces, has won two bumpers at this track and is the only confirmed stayer in the field, interesting?
This is a highly competitive renewal with 13 runners heading to post, and all have valid claims. Still, Iain Jardine's runners should always be worth a second glance over fences from a statistical angle.
Jardine has a 35% strike rate with runners over the larger obstacles at Newcastle - he is zero for 32 over hurdles. He saddles Cool Mix 9.08/1.
For those that like ratings: In the last eight years, the contest has gone to horses rated between 139 and 146 and using this to narrow the field leaves: Good Boy Bobby 8.515/2, Spiritofthegames 8.07/1, Notachance 15.014/1, Sam's Adventure 21.020/1 and Some Chaos 21.020/1.
Horses aged nine or older have won five of the last ten and the last two, including 2019 winner Takingrisks 17.016/1, who lines up again.
The race is an almost exact repeat of last years field with Monmiral replacing Ribble Valley.
Monmiral 3.211/5 will attempt to become the fifth four-year-old to win the race in its 52 year running and the first since 2012.
You have to go all the way back to 1979 to find the last nine-year-old winner of the race and 1980 to find a horse older than eight to win. Sceau Royal 5.59/2 is a nine-year-old.
Epatante 2.47/5 will bid for back to back wins on seasonal reappearance for Nicky Henderson.
Jockey stats for Betfair's three races at Newcastle
Jockey Daryl Jacob has ridden four winners at Newcastle from 21 rides. He saddles up on Valleres 1.910/11 in the 13:30.
Sean Bowen has a 33% strike rate at Newcastle with three winners from nine rides and takes the ride on Monmiral 3.211/5.
Horses for courses
This section highlights horses that have won twice or more at today's focus meetings, Newcastle and Newbury, and could be in with a chance today.
Weighted to go well
"Weighted to go well" highlights horses running that are more than 10lbs below their last winning handicap mark.
There are no horses running in the selected races that are 10lbs below their last winning handicap mark today.
Form Watch - Newcastle, 13:30, 14:05, 15:15
This section highlights a trainer, owner or jockey who is in excellent current form and their runners or rides for the day.
Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies is operating at a 36% having had ten winners from 28 runners in the last 14 days. He saddles Good Boy Bobby in the 14:05 Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase.
Plenty of trainers make the long journey to Newcastle today. Paul Nicholls just comes out on top, travelling 318 miles for his runner Monmiral in the 15:15 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
At Newbury, trainer Lucinda Russell has made the 410-mile journey with Ahoy Senor 2.47/5 in the 12:40 Ladbrokes John Francome Novices' Chase.
Race of the day
The 15:15 Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth looks like a real top-class race with the young pretender from the Paul Nicholls yard attempting to make his stamp in open company for the first time.
Monmiral will take his first steps into open-company and look to back up his impressive Aintree Grade 1 Juvenile win at the back end of last season. He makes his seasonal reappearance today, and it has been mentioned that this will be a fact-finding mission for the Ditcheat yard to see where they are with the more established hurdlers.
The monsoon of rain that has appeared from the off radar will greatly benefit his chances with a pronounced knee action likely to benefit from some ease in the ground.
He is a very exciting prospect who could yet be anything, and his form could hardly be working out better, but this is a big ask for the youngster.
Reigning Fighting Fifth titleholder and 2020 Champion Hurdler Epatante cruised to an easy victory in this contest last year before being found out in three subsequent starts exposing her inability to quicken around a bend.
She is a strong traveller who appreciates a long home straight to allow her trademark turn of foot to punish opponents inside the final furlong.
She finds herself facing a much easier task on this reappearance, and it's highly likely that tougher tasks than this lie ahead, so it looks like a good opportunity.
There are few better than her across this side of the Irish Sea, and although the unknown quantity of Monmiral is a slight concern for backers, she has plenty in her favour.
She looks a very favourable price to repeat the feat of 12 months ago.
Sceau Royal was unfavoured by making all the running in this contest last year with the early departure of the pace angles, and he has already proven this season that he is much better than that.
Still, his level is probably a notch below this, and he will do well to trouble the front two in the market, with every raindrop unlikely to enhance his chances.
Not So Sleepy could throw a spanner in the works for Monmiral given his tearaway front running tactics, and he is not one you would want to give too much rope to on the front end.
He has plenty to find with Epatante from their meeting in the Champion Hurdle, but a case can be made that this track will suit him better.
He has a good record fresh, but it's a bit late in the day at the age of nine to be throwing your hat into the Champion Hurdle ring, and he is vulnerable once again.
Sceau Royale readily held Silver Streak at Kempton when making his seasonal return at a track he loves, which must have left connections scratching their head a little given the dominance of the winner.
He was another that was behind Epatante at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle, but he also beat the mare at Kempton last season.
It is becoming hard to make a solid case for him for all he runs with his heart on his sleeve, but it may be best to look elsewhere for win purposes.
Voix Du Reve was once a very useful animal but will need more than the first time visor to make a serious impact here. Great sport, though, and maybe one for handicaps in the near future.
Big race verdict
This is a cracker with plenty of pace on, and the potential of Monmiral is there for all to see, but he will have to improve around ten pounds to give the sex allowance and a beating to EPATANTE. Nicky Henderson's mare in turn, will be much more suited by today's scenario, and this long home straight at Newcastle will give her plenty of time to travel into the race strongly.
Paul Nicholls on his Saturday chances
Paul Nicholls is looking forward to a big day of racing on Saturday with some good chances in the major contests at Newbury and Newcastle, including with unbeaten Monmiral in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle...
May the force be with you
In the Betfair sponsored 14:05 Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase, I want to take a bit of a chance with the well-handicapped Glen Forsa. He took a huge step back in the right direction on stable and seasonal debut when fourth at Ascot last time in a first time tongue-tie and now looks primed to strike.
A bit of money has come for him since eyeing him up and down for this contest a few days ago, but anything 7.06/1 or bigger is a fair play here.
It's been a remarkably quick fall in the weights for Glen Forsa, who was competing in better company than today off a handicap mark of 150 back in the 2019/20 season and even went up to a mark as high as 154.
One of his stand out performances came off 150 at Newbury when chasing home Oldgrangewood and Kalashnikov, only to go down by two lengths. Since then, he has contested two Grade 2 contests and two Grade 3 contests with a handicap thrown in for which a blunder cost him finishing closer at Wincanton off 150.
His efforts in the Topham Chase over the National fences and the Grand Annual the last twice are easily forgiven, yet the handicapper has dropped him ten pounds in two runs.
Today's step up to 3m is what he has been crying out for since scoring on handicap debut over this trip way back in 2018. The first time tongue-tie clearly had a positive effect on reappearance when shaping well for a long way before faltering for fitness for this new yard, and a more conservative ride here should see him to good effect.
He looks like one of the best-handicapped horses in the race and is sure to step forward for his reappearance run, and with the Sportsbook offering four places, he must be backed.
Timeform runner by runner guide to the Ladbrokes Trophy
The Timeform team run through each and every runner for the big one at Newbury!
I am absolutely buzzing for tomorrow's racing. I can't wait to see our Cheltenham Festival Focus ante-post bet run at Newbury in the form of the excellent Mr Incredible in the 12:40, for which I have had a good wack on.
Talking of the ante-post piece, expect it to be a lengthy one this week with plenty of racing to cover!
With top-quality action all over the show, there really is little to moan about on weekends like this! Enjoy!
Until tomorrow, be lucky!
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