The ITV racing team is bringing viewers action from Newbury, Doncaster and Cheltenham on Saturday. The Group 1 Futurity Stakes is the feature race at Doncaster, there is a brace of Group 3’s for the two-year-olds at Newbury and the jumps season starts in earnest at Cheltenham.
There is a three-mile handicap to open proceedings at Cheltenham’s showcase meeting on Saturday. This is the first big handicap of the season and there are some familiar faces to the fore of the market.
Cogry won this twelve month’s ago when beating the Tom Geroge trained Singlefarmpayment by a commanding four lengths. Nigel Twiston-Davies runner gets in here off a mark two pounds higher than last season and is an intriguing runner.
Another horse that re-appears in the race for the second year running is the ultra-consistent Doing Fine. Neil Mulholland's charge rarely runs a bad race and finished a credible third last race when staying on well up the hill. Doing Fine was last seen when finishing fourth in the Scottish National and should once again give his running.
For Good Measure has been the money horse leading up to the race and has some very good course form to his name including a runner-up finish on this card last year. I do have reservations about him though as he finds it difficult to get his head in front and his mark doesn't look overly lenient.
Selection: Doing Fine
The four-year-olds are out to prove they have trained on in the Grade 2 Masterson Holdings Hurdle. Head of the ratings but not the market is Gumball, who finished runner-up at Aintree behind We Have A Dream and didn’t let the form down when taking a novice event at Ludlow two weeks later. This confidence boosting run should stand to Philip Hobbs’ runner and he could have a very good season.
Alan King historically does very well with his four-year-olds and this is why Cheveley Park Stud choose to keep Redicean with the master of Barbury Castle. He won his first three starts over timber and went to Cheltenham as a leading contender in the Triumph Hurdle, where he ultimately had to settle for a sixth-place finish in behind Farclas. This was a good run and looks more than strong enough form to win this.
Padleyourowncanoe, Irish-raider Pearl Of The West, Eragon De Chanay and Esprit De Somoza make up the remainder of the field but in truth, it would be a shock if they were to get involved.
The Randox Health Handicap Chase is one of the most open races of the day on paper and the logical starting point when trying to pick the winner is to look at last years race where Foxtail Hill proved a neck too good for Le Prezien. Nigel Twiston-Davies nine year old was disappointing in five runs prior to this victory but back down off a mark two pounds lower than last year, he must have a big chance.
The Paul Nicholls trained Modus is one the classiest runners in the seven-strong field, with the breeding of a Derby winner and having contested Grade 1 contests on his last two starts. The son of Motivator historically runs well fresh and is a course and distance which is a big plus. If he turns up here anywhere near his best then he will take all the beating.
The final horse of interest is Lillington who has already won twice this season, which is incredible given he hadn’t won a single race prior to these in fifteen starts. Colin Tizzard’s six-year-old has a lot to find to get involved but may have turned a corner and will have match fitness along with a lovely racing weight.
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle is the final race televised at Cheltenham on Saturday and the quality of twenty horses go to post. The betting would suggest it is a one-horse race, with Theclockisticking at least half the price of every other runner. Stuart Edmunds trains this improving six-year-old, who was placed in a Grade 2 behind Claimantakinforgan last season at Ascot and has already got two runs under his belt this season.
He runs off a mark of 138 which he should be competitive off but I wouldn't say he is thrown in either. After nine runs he's only won twice and because if this I'd be willing to take him on. The horse I like in the field is the top-weight Wait For Me, who's got some fantastic course handicap form including a fourth-place finish in the County Hurdle at the festival in 2016 and third place finish in the Champion Bumper in 2015.
This is far and away the best form on offer and although he has to give weight away all round, he must have a big chance.
NotwhatIam has had a lot of trainers down through the years and ran well when winning on debut for the Dan Skelton yard at Uttoxeter earlier in the month but has had lots of chances down through the years and I can't see him being good enough to win this.
Selection: Wait For Me
The feature race at Doncaster is the Group 1 Futurity Trophy which is for the two-year-olds over a mile. This race has been won by some quality colts that have gone on to score in some classics the following season, including Motivator (2014), Camelot (2011) and Kingston Hill (2013).
Aidan O’Brien has won three of the last seven runnings of this contest and supplies in the favourite for this year's contest with Magna Grecia. The son of Invincible Spirit won on debut at Naas and then went on to come up just short in a Group 3 at Newmarket earlier this month. If this run doesn’t come too quickly then he may regain the winning bracket.
John Gosden runs the thrice raced Turgenev here and he has looked impressive in his last two starts in Newcastle and Newmarket, This well-bred son of Dubawi seems to have a lot of potential and is one to follow.
Phoenix Of Spain has the best form in the race having won the Acomb at York and then only found Too Darn Hot a length and three quarters too good in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. Charlie Hill’s charge is an exciting prospect and is the one to beat.
Selection: Phoneix Of Spain