Considering the extent of the racing feast we enjoyed at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend, it wouldn't have been surprising if we experienced a sort of DRF hangover this weekend. However, the action on ITV Racing this Saturday is a mix of intriguing small-field contests and bigger-field handicaps that really does excite and promises to be informative.
Sussex Ranger can continue Moore's fine form
My first port of call for a selection comes in one of the most competitive races on the day at Newbury, the Daily Rewards With Betfair Handicap Hurdle (13:50). The one that stands out the most to me is the Gary Moore-trained Sussex Ranger.
The eight-year-old finished a close second in a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle back in the day, but hasn't flown at those heights for quite some time. Having been rated as high as 142 over hurdles at one point, he has steadily dropped down the ratings in the last few years, with his most recent run over hurdles coming off a mark of 134 in May 2019.
Since then, he has been campaigned over fences and proved his stamina for three miles when winning a handicap chase at this track two years ago. He only appeared once in the two years after that, but there has been some encouragement in his two runs this season, with him progressing from his first run to his second.
What makes him interesting in this contest are three factors. Firstly, the handicapper has been very generous in dropping him to a mark of just 121 for his return to hurdling.
Secondly, he has never raced beyond two-and-a-half miles over hurdles, yet his stamina is in no question following his win over three miles over fences two years ago.
Finally, Gary Moore has his team in fine form. All of these factors combine to make him an interesting prospect and one that is worth taking a chance on.
Soaring Glory's mark makes him attractive in Betfair Hurdle
The feature event of the day is the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (15:35) and the one I like is the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Soaring Glory. The seven-year-old burst onto the big-race scene when winning this race off a mark of 133 last year, but it is fair to say that he has been more miss than hit since then.
That said, he showed that winning off his current mark of 147 shouldn't be beyond him when bolting up in a handicap hurdle at Ascot off a mark of 143 in October.
While he has been beaten twice since, both those defeats came in small-field contests that didn't seem to play to his strengths. Even considering that, he did run quite well on the latest of those starts when two-and-a-half lengths third to Epatante in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
As has been the case for much of this season in Britain, the handicapper dished out some very generous treatment to him after that, dropping him 2lb despite it seeming to be close to a career-best effort.
As well as his attractive mark, the main key to him being my selection here is that the return to this bigger field handicap seems sure to suit him. His style of running seems to be ideally suited to this type of race and he rates as a very interesting contender.