Kevin Blake splits his weekend bets across both codes, first at Lingfield on Saturday then in the big race at Cheltenham on Sunday...
"The one I like is one that hasn’t been so harshly treated, the Noel Meade-trained Jesse Evans, who gets in off a 3lb higher mark than his Irish rating."
It's a day-by-day process, this transitioning from the Flat to the National Hunt business. It's rarely wise to dive head first into murky waters, so a dipping of toes and progressive submersion seems to be the prudent approach. With that in mind, I'm going to take the next step in this process by splitting my selections this weekend between the two codes.
Exalted Angel makes plenty of appeal
The first port of call for the weekend is the Golden Rose Stakes (15:05) at Lingfield on Saturday.
It has attracted a very interesting field, with none more interesting that the former Group 1 winner The Last Lion who returns to the track for the first five in over five years as a gelding after a stallion career that ended due to his infertility. However, with it being very hard to know how much ability he'll retain, clear preference is given to the Karl Burke-trained Exalted Angel.
The five-year-old seems to be a better horse on all-weather surfaces than on turf and he showed himself particularly adept around this tricky course and distance last season. He ran over it twice, winning a Listed race in February and running a huge race to push Summerghand all the way in a conditions race in April. The level of form he showed on both those occasions would arguably be enough to win this race. His record when fresh is excellent and one can be sure that his trainer has had an eye on this race for quite some time. He makes plenty of appeal.
Cheltenham test should suit Meade's five-year-old
For my second selection of the weekend, I'd like to look ahead to the main event on Sunday, the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (14:55) at Cheltenham. Last year's renewal of the race saw The Shunter bring a 12-year drought for Irish-trained runners in the race to an end and this year the Irish have come over in force with four intriguing runners.
In terms of the all-important differentials between their Irish marks and the marks they have been given in Britain, the range goes from 3lb to 6lb, with the Denis Hogan-trained Bua Boy coming out the worst with his mark being 6lb higher than his Irish rating.
The one I like is one that hasn't been so harshly treated, the Noel Meade-trained Jesse Evans, who gets in off a 3lb higher mark than his Irish rating. The five-year-old has an unexposed profile over hurdles, but has already acquired vital experience in some fiercely-competitive settings.
He finished a close third in a handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, won a valuable handicap hurdle at Killarney in May and then finished a very good fourth in the Galway Hurdle after being caught wide in the closing stages. Indeed, he would have been second in the last-named contest in a couple of more strides.
Meade has cleverly protected Jesse Evans' mark over hurdles by running him twice on the Flat since then, with him winning a maiden at Navan on his most recent start. This test should suit him well and he seems notably overpriced at double-figure odds.
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