Our man guides you through Saturday's ITV action that takes in races from Cheltenham, Doncaster and Newbury on Vertem Futurity Trophy day.
2pts win Bayside Boy in 3.15 Doncaster at 5/1 (General)
1pt e.w Gabrial The Devil in 4.20 Doncaster at 25/1 (Sky Bet, Hills 1/5 1,2,3,4,5)
Cheltenham is back and punters have an immediate dilemma in Saturday’s ITV opener with a Paul Nicholls-trained hotpot, SAMMARIVE, dominating the market in the NHS Vaccinating Heroes Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.
I’m in no rush to take him on as he was a stylish winner at Kempton on his British debut on good ground in April – so conditions certainly aren’t likely to catch him out this weekend.
The handicapper had a thankless task in allotting him a suitable handicap mark from just two career runs to go on, following his French debut win, and the four-year-old could easily tank his way to glory off 132.
Nicholls reports him to have done well over the summer and this looks the perfect litmus test under Lorcan Williams, who steered him to that Kempton success six months ago.
Noble Truth sets the standard in the Virgin Bet Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury but he can be too keen for his own good and I want to swerve him at short prices.
The one that could take advantage is David Simcock’s LIGHT INFANTRY after he absolutely bolted up on debut at Yarmouth five weeks ago over six furlongs.
That form has worked out well with the second, High Velocity, who was beaten over six lengths by Light Infantry, going in subsequently at Chelmsford, while the third, Baileys Accolade, was a head second at Redcar.
Light Infantry needs to improve significantly to sink the Godolphin horse, but he was so green in the early stages on debut that it’s fair to assume there is loads of improvement to come.
Kerry Lee is in red-hot form and her STORM CONTROL can land the 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Handicap Chase over 3m1f.
The eight-year-old was twice a winner over fences over three miles-plus at Prestbury Park last season, his exuberant front-running style lending itself well to the track and he’s proven on good ground, as well.
He’s gone well fresh before and crucially the handicapper cut him some slack following two defeats in tough assignments in the spring, dropping him 5lb back to a rating of 137.
That’s the rating he last won off at Cheltenham last December, so he should go very well up front with his fitness taken on trust such is the form of the yard.
Siskany could well be the answer to the Virgin Bet St Simon Stakes following his ruthless success in the usually-hot Old Rowley Cup Handicap at Newmarket earlier in the month.
That smooth victory off 103 marked him out as a future Group-race winner but heavy ground asks a different question of him and it might be worth chancing a stronger stayer.
Step forward MAX VEGA, a horse who ran his best race over the extended 1m5f at this course last year, when he was second to the talented Hukum in the Geoffrey Freer Stakes.
A soft-ground winner in the October of his two-year-old career, this could be set-up perfectly for him stepping back in trip and he looked on the verge of a big run when finishing a good fifth in the Sky Bet Ebor two starts ago.
Tritonic disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival in March and he might be vulnerable giving 8lb to Dan Skelton’s STEPNEY CAUSEWAY on his retrieval mission in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
The selection looks the obvious pace angle here given he’s made all to win on his last four starts over hurdles – having being beaten by Tritonic on his hurdling bow.
Well proven on good ground and having had wind surgery since his last run in the spring, he’s expected to bowl along in front under Harry Skelton and he could be tough to catch.
Tritonic is the obvious danger, but there’s likely to be no margin for error here on his seasonal reappearance and that, along with his 8lb penalty, could be crucial.
Luxembourg is the odds-on favourite for the Vertem Futurity Trophy but the Aidan O’Brien yard has been struggling for winners and this horse doesn’t even have the best form in the race.
That accolade goes to BAYSIDE BOY by virtue of his Dewhurst third, a race in which he was unlucky not to be second after he was denied a clear passage at a crucial point in proceedings.
Already a winner on Town Moor thanks to his Champagne Stakes victory over hot prospect Reach For The Moon, he can be the one to sink the hot favourite for the still in-form Roger Varian yard.
Being a son of New Bay, he’s expected to relish the softest conditions he’s ever faced and on pedigree he should love going up in trip to a mile for the first time, too.
In a small field with only one obvious frontrunner in Voix de Reve, both Sky Pirate and Leapaway could be vulnerable in the 888Sport Handicap Chase over two miles at Cheltenham.
They are both dependent on a real good gallop at this trip and with that in mind perhaps Fergal O’Brien’s BATHIVA can regain the winning thread.
The seven-year-old has been in great nick for his new yard since joining from David Dennis’, winning on three occasions in two-mile handicap chases before he was below form at Worcester last time out.
He still travelled well that day, though, and suffered for making errors at crucial points, so on another day it would be no surprise if he can put it altogether. Given he’s a strong traveller, he could be the one to have a positional advantage in this approaching the closing stages.
Tom Dascombe’s FLAMING RIB could be tough to beat in the Virgin Bet Doncaster Stakes over six furlongs.
The son of Ribchester is the clear form pick following his victories in the Sky Bet Nursery at York’s Ebor Festival and then a Chester nursery last time out where he hosed up off a mark of 101.
Both of those runs give him a solid chance of Listed glory here, with the three once-raced winners, Deodar, Gold Medal and Parisiac, the dangers given how unexposed they are.
They all have a serious gap to bridge with Flaming Rib, though, and he’s taken to come out on top and land a four-timer under Pierre-Louis Jamin.
An early Pertemps qualifier at Cheltenham and it’s hard to get away from the claims of Gordon Elliott’s TULLYBEG who goes into the contest on a hat-trick.
He’s returned from an aborted summer chasing switch with renewed vigour and he followed up his Navan win over hurdles in September with a comfortable success over three miles at Gowran last time out.
Both of those wins were on good ground so conditions are right up his street and he’s only 4lb higher than his revised Irish mark in this.
Richard Fahey’s GABRIAL THE DEVIL looks a big price at around 25/1 in the Virgin Bet Handicap that brings the curtain down on the ITV action at Doncaster.
He has a career-high mark to overcome, but the six-year-old has been in terrific form and he’s unexposed at five furlongs having raced at the distance just five times in his entire career – his form figures at the distance are 3-2-3-1-1.
Both wins have come at Chester, so he’s clearly got the speed for this assignment and he’ll love the big field and likely strong pace, with Copper Knight and Zargun likely to pull him into things on the stands’ side.
Soft ground at this trip helps, as well, so he has plenty in his favour fresh from a convincing Chester victory just three weeks ago.
Published at 1540 on 22/10/21
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