Nick Robson’s Weekend Racing Tips
Spotlight on 29th December
Kim Bailey's horses remain in fine form and it is hard to find a negative in the chance of STATION MASTER – but plenty of us thought that about Buveur D'Air so tread carefully! He loves good ground, is a sound jumper, runs off the same mark as when second to The Young Master at Cheltenham and there is nothing of that class in here. That was only his second run over fences and he bumped into a smart one on his debut in It's A Sting, who ran well at Kempton the other day. He may have uninspiring form figures but Oliver Sherwood's Minella On Line is very capable on his day and has conditions to suit so he could be the danger.
RAINBOW DREAMER looks interesting here for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson. He may never have quite hit the heights once hoped of him on the level but he did finish fourth to Thomas Hobson in the Ascot Stakes on his penultimate outing. Having his first run over hurdles for some time at Aintree earlier this month, and his first for almost two years, he ran an eyecatching race behind Sue Smith's Midnight Shadow. He has been given a little respite from the handicapper and is massively unexposed over hurdles having had just seven goes. He was second to Defi Du Seuil in a Grade Two as a juvenile showcasing the ability he has.
In the hope that Lady Buttons will be over-bet I think there is scope for backing RENE'S GIRL on the basis that she will be better suited by this two and a half mile trip. I was shocked Phil Kirby said he was targeting the Castleford Chase initially because I think Lady Buttons is better than running for a first prize of £12,000 so it wasn't a surprise he pulled her out. However, Kirby has always said she struggles to get much further than two miles, indeed her wins over further than that have been at a lowly level. Her jumping will stand her in good stead but she is up against it here in Rene's Girl who almost won a Grade One against the boys at Aintree. She was disappointing in the Peterborough Chase but nothing got into that behind Charbel and she may be able to dominate here.
Colin Tizzard excels with staying chasers, as he has advertised again this week in winning the Welsh National and his SANDY BEACH looks a stayer on the up. He was beginning to look exposed last season but a wind op appeared to have made a big difference last time out. He was an easy winner from Lough Derg Farmer at Uttoxeter and he looks all about stamina. He's got to defy an 8lb rise but there is every chance he could easily do that, especially if it was the breathing that has been catching him out all this time.
The handicapper could have been a lot tougher on BALLYWOOD, sticking him up only 6lb for beating a bang in-form rival in Capeland at Taunton. Paul Nicholls' Capeland is a prolific winner of late, and has won since, but he had no answer to Ballywood. Wayne Hutchinson, on board, believed the change in fortune was brought about by more forcing tactics as he kicked on a long way from home and held on grimly. In this small field he may have to make all but there appears plenty more under the locker.
Champ is all the rage in this Grade One after his extraordinary performance in a handicap last time out. It looked like he had bolted under Aidan Coleman but he had plenty left at the finish. He was winning off 139 so was hardly chucked in but still, he ought to find this a tougher test. I'm a big admirer of Kateson but he probably needs softer ground and will be even better over fences. I'm going with BREWIN'UPASTORM who Olly Murphy has made no secret of the regard in which he is held. He brings classy bumper form to the table and he was an easy winner on his hurdling debut when Murphy felt he might be a little bit short of fitness. The fact he throws him straight in at the deep end speaks volumes and his upwardly mobile trainer needs a big horse to hit the big time.
One of the surprise stories of this season has been the resurgence of Nicky Richards who was in Grade One-winning form this week in Ireland with his veteran Simply Ned. While his strike rate has dipped a little in recent days they are still in great heart and his BALLYBOKER BREEZE looks of interest returning to hurdles. He runs off the last mark he was able to win off over fences and while it hasn't gone to plan over the bigger obstacles of late, he still has his ability. Another massive plus is the assistance of Danny MacMenamin in the saddle, to take off a very valuable 7lb.
WHENYERREADYFREDDIE can bring up the hat-trick for Nicky Henderson in the lucky last. While initially it looked like he may have had little left when scrambling home at Ascot last time, he threw loads of ground away by jumping markedly out to his left so he'll be better suited going this way round. Also, the form could not have been franked any better than by Kildisart winning at Ascot last week. Henderson's horse is only 3lb higher and he looks better treated than Polydora, who is up 11lb for winning a weak race.
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