Alan Dudman stands in for Tony Calvin on what promises to be quite a muddy and wet Saturday. With an eight-race ITV4 schedule planned, Alan looks at all the televised races for the weekend...
"I will throw in Henllan Harri at close to double figures - a gutsy front-runner that acts in heavy. He looked a potential Grand National horse with his ultra-game display at Sandown last term."
13:50 Newbury - Arise Sir Antony for TV opener
We'll take the Newbury ITV4 races first in order, and it's a day where heavy terrain will rule. Checking on Thursday late afternoon, the ground was given as heavy with going stick readings at 4.3 and 4.0. The weather forecast hardly brightened the mood - with rain predicted on all three days in the lead up to the meeting.
This 2m5f handicap hurdle was run at a good pace last term, and some decent horses have won in recent times. Whisper was the 2013 victor, whilst Warren Greatrex's One Track Mind went on to win a Grade 1 at Punchestown - and he landed this from 140.
There were two I wanted to keep onside initially; certainly Remiluc, at around 6.05/1, as he loves the mud - but he now runs in the preceding race at 13:15.
He ran a belter behind Old Guard at the track during the Ladbrokes Trophy meeting, a finish where he just couldn't peg back a horse that will get 3m in the future. Remiluc must also go left-handed, and he likes galloping tracks. His form figures around here read 2132P. So he might warrant an interest in that Novices' Limited Handicap Chase, but only four run in that.
I am left with the one who holds a progressive profile with a play on Sir Antony Browne, who was priced-up very early on the Sportsbook at 12/1. Anything at bigger odds on the exchange makes him a bet.
This will be his first start of the campaign - which is a tough ask for his comeback after 250-odd days, but he won after nearly a year off the track last term at Wincanton as a novice, and that came in heavy conditions. He travelled and jumped really well that day.
His trainer Alan King described him once as his best bumper horse, and was mentioned as a possible for the Neptune or Supreme - but he appeared in neither, as I suspect he was still a little green and inexperienced for such a race.
Off top weight, he makes his handicap debut from 141, and he gave the impression last term when winning a novice hurdle at the track that he will stay well.
14:25 Newbury - Harri to tough it out in the feature
The highlight of the day is the Mandarin Handicap Chase, and it looks quite an open affair. If you are playing towards the top of the market, then Knockanrawley has got the required stamina - as he is out-and-out a dour marathon type. He was a little unlucky on his reappearance last time at Ayr, and he was chalked up as the second favourite at 7/1 by some books on Thursday.
He also has Newbury form.
However, the remit of the column is to go for something less obvious and at a bigger price - but it's quite hard to get way from the 6.05/1 on him. He'll stay.
I will throw in Henllan Harri at close to double figures - a gutsy front-runner that acts in heavy. He looked a potential Grand National horse with his ultra-game display in last term's Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. From the family of Silver Birch, he stays well and jumps - and this is a race that has gone to pace-setters in recent seasons with Pete The Feat and Potters Cross "doing it the hard way". He is rated 129 for this, which is still workable given he was a 130 hurdler in 2015.
If you are looking to trade a horse in-running, the 'double H' is an obvious one with his style, and might present a nice back-to-lay opportunity from the front at around 10.09/1.
15:00 Newbury - Outsider Dans Le Vent shouldn't be written off
I'll get straight to it for the Grade 1 Challow Novices' Hurdle - and that's the 18.017/1 on Jamie Snowden's Dans Le Vent, although it might be pushing it to say he is the bet.
He is up against it on official ratings, as he has 16lb to find with the 147 horse Poetic Rhythm - but the selection is often underrated. He ran a screamer to finish sixth in last term's Champion Bumper at a Betfair SP of 165. He was not far behind the likes of Debuchet, Claimantakinforgan and Next Destination that day.
His season thus far is going well; with a smart effort to finish second behind Slate House at Cheltenham, before an easy win at Market Rasen stepped up in trip to 2m3f. He saw that out really strongly, although granted a win at the Rasen is a world away from a Grade 1.
Dans Le Vent can race a bit lazily, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with a better standard of opposition, but he has given the impression he should stay this intermediate trip.
I realise he could be up against it, but his trainer has enjoyed a terrific campaign with 19 winners, and I just feel he could be overlooked in the betting. But with just six running in deep ground, it doesn't have the best feel to it.
15:35 Newbury - Longsdon's chaser to have rivals on gardes
Sadly, we have another small field here, with just the four declared for this Novices' Limited Handicap Chase. If we can get around 5.04/1 on A Vos Gardes - he is worth a small interest, and worth the dreadful subheading (apologies).
Trained by Charlie Longsdon, he runs in the colours of The Rollwright Stones. He was a useful novice hurdler and always looked as though he had a decent pot in him, but a record of 1-10 over the smaller ones didn't do him justice.
His chase debut last time out was a nothing race at Wetherby; facing just one rival over a shorter trip than today. That was also his first run since February of 2016, so it was a pleasing enough comeback to tell us at least the horse is fit and well. His jumping will need to improve a bit, though, now tackling the huge Newbury fences on Saturday.
He wants this sort of trip at 2m7f, and the extra yardage will suit. With form on soft and a mark that is certainly achievable of 124 compared to his hurdling rating, he can go well.
14:10 Haydock - Take one up-and-comer with one veteran
Racing at Haydock is unlikely to be easy on the eye - with another gruelling afternoon in store in deep ground. And they won't come much tougher than a near-3m4f handicap chase in the mud.
It could be a case of last one standing for this, and there won't be a more popular winner on the afternoon if good old Harry The Viking pops up. At 12.011/1 you are guaranteed a stayer, and he has plenty of form around Haydock. Indeed, he was second in this race back in 2015 - and the warrior is still going strong.
Rated 128 for Saturday, he is 8lb higher than he was for winning a brutal Borders National over 4m last December - and he scored in that by five lengths. He jumps well for Rachael McDonald, and her claim in this race of 7lb could be worth its weight in gold. She's won a couple of times on the ultra-tough veteran, and he's had a nice break of 55 days following his seasonal reappearance victory at Carlisle.
The other selection here could be a complete flyer with Whiskey Chaser. Looking at this race nice and early on Thursday, I had no idea how to price this fella up. But the one thing that caught my eye with him is the liking for heavy conditions - and he'll have a very low weight for this.
It will be great to see his trainer Donald McCain with another "Saturday horse", and the yard won this race with Across The Bay back in 2013. He was a classy operator with graded form - but Whiskey Chaser has been running from marks around 110 - so he clearly has plenty to find from his new mark of 125.
However, the mud plays to his strengths, and he's a proper old-fashioned staying chaser to look at. He bounded clear at Haydock last time over 3m in heavy going - and McCain said afterwards he usually needs the run! He also holds big margin victories in far lesser races - so he is taking on the big boys today.
He jumps well and tries 3m4f for the first time - but he should love conditions.
14:45 Haydock - Hit-and-miss character to prove a hit in the mud
A couple of horses stood out intially here with handicap marks. The two at entry stage were Wings Of Smoke and Crievehill - although there will be probably be a few groans at the back with a mention of Wings Of Smoke, as he is a bit of an old rogue - but a very well treated one. Sadly he won't be running on Saturday. Sigh.
The Crievehill angle would have been far more likely anyway, despite him being a touch hit-and-miss.
As a 5yo with only three runs over fences, he has plenty more to offer. Unfortunately he threw in a bit of stinker in a good race last time at Newbury. He went without his usual hood - but it's hard to use that as an excuse for a well-beaten third. The hood returns today.
Crievehill also looks a tricky ride, as he can hit a flat spot. He displayed that when winning over 2m in deep ground at Lingfield, and that to me indicated that he has a good chance of staying Saturday's trip of 2m5f.
So we have ticked the heavy ground box, and we can also tick the handicap mark box. He was a 137-rated hurdler, and today he runs from 129 over fences. He is worth a play at 8.07/1.
15:15 Taunton - Nicholls to have a say on home patch
A somewhat surprising edition to the Saturday ITV4 schedule, and this Mares' Listed Hurdle event completes the bumper eight-race afternoon.
However, it might not be the best betting heat of the day with the top two in the market priced-up at 5/4 and 7/4, which is often the case in these sorts of races, and half the entries before decs had no chance anyway.
The interesting one here is the Paul Nicholls-trained If You Say Run - who clearly has talent judging by her 11 length victory in soft ground at Wincanton. She might also have a quirky side as she does hang left. Indeed, that manifested itself rather painfully for some backers when she threw a race away at Ludlow with that party trick - and she was matched at 1.031/33 in-running.
She runs in the Highclere colours - so I hope she isn't trying to copy Bonfire. The tongue-tie remains.
She displayed it again at Wincanton last time, so it's a big worry going right-handed here. She is interesting for a yard who have held a much stronger band of mares over the last couple of seasons. I wouldn't go overboard, but a small bet at the price is advised.
Back Sir Antony Browne @ 13.012/1 in the 13:50 at Newbury
Back Henllan Harri @ 10.09/1 in the 14:25 at Newbury
Back A Vos Gardes @ 5.04/1 in the 15:35 at Newbury
Back Whiskey Chaser @ 7.06/1 in the 14:10 at Haydock
Back Harry The Viking @ 12.011/1 in the 14:10 at Haydock
Back Crievehill @ 8.07/1 in the 14:45 at Haydock
Back If You Say Run @ 6.05/1 in the 15:15 at Taunton