Day two at Cheltenham is the highlight of the day, but while the racing is top class not every event offers us value and so we head elsewhere on the lockout for profit.
Doncaster is our jumps venue where we have two horses who should each make quite a splash, while Newcastle’s decent looking flat card on the tapeta surface has attracted some notable runners including one who promises to come right back to form on his favourite surface.
12.50 Newcastle (Conditions Stakes) – FUNNY KID
Solid runners such as Mildenberger and Dubawi Fifty can make their mark and will undoubtedly be popular in the ring, while Raymond Tusk would be an obvious favourite considering his last assignment was in the Melbourne Cup.
That run in Australia just a month or so ago will have taken plenty out of him though, as will the travelling, so preference at fair odds is French raider Funny Kid.
With the exception of a nothing effort in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran, Funny Kid as been in good form all year and in fact his best performance arguably was on another tapeta surface when he was second at Wolverhampton before he went on to win £93,000 at Lingfield in the all-weather championships.
1.35 Doncaster (Handicap Hurdle) – SPEED COMPANY
Alan King’s Scarlet Dragon has been the one for money this week and that one rates as my next best in this contest ahead of Blu Cavalier of Ali Stronge’s, but the most intriguing one in receipt of a ton of weight is Ian Williams’ runner Speed Company.
Having been improving towards the end of last season, he resumed this year on the upgrade too with a very cosy win at Chepstow that sent him storming up the handicap, but even off a new mark of 126 having been beaten last time when things didn’t go his way, he remains capable of more and so now that claimer Charlie Todd takes handy 7lbs back off him, he looks good value to go and score once more.
2.35 Newcastle (Novice Stakes) – SPECTRUM OF LIGHT
On paper this is a low-grade, low prize money race full of juveniles we know little about, so it’s not too exciting for those who aren’t in the know.
However, in reality it’s a fascinating race with youngsters representing top owners and trainers, some of them being very much expected to go on to much better things next year.
The Queen has two runners here, both trained by John Gosden, with Rab Havlin’s choice Desert Flyer appearing to be the best of them. A daughter of Shamardal who just keeps getting better at stud, she makes her debut here for a yard that loves to send a good one to Newcastle, as they’ve done with the likes of Stradivarius, Enable and Without Parole.
The best horse with experience is Roger Varian’s Dublin Pharaoh but his level of form it seems makes him a little vulnerable to a good newcomer, which brings in Godolphin’s hopeful Spectrum Of Light.
His grandsire is Shamardal, which is encouraging, and he is by Golden Horn which lends weight to the fact that he may see this tough enough mile out better than most while the final two nails are the fact that Charlie Appleby tends to get these decent juveniles ready for a big run first up, unlike some trainers, and chosen jockey Kieran Shoemark has been riding this track very well and knows how to get the job done.
2.45 Doncaster (Summit Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – NAVAJO PASS
Back to the jumps now and we’re taking a little bit of a chance here on a horse who has been quoted at everything between 4/1 and 10/1 on Friday, Navajo Pass.
Firstly, what we need to do is get the favourite beaten and that’s why we’re taking a slight chance here. French recruit Tombee Du Ciel of Nicky Henderson’s yard follows the same path as some pretty impressive horses to have gone before, so naturally a lot is expected of hers, but he is going first time up in Britain and her level of form in France doesn’t scream top-class just yet.
Donald McCain’s runner Navajo Pass on the other hand has proven himself to be decent and he’s now on a track that will suit him. Having easily won on his hurdling debut, he was turned over narrowly when favourite at Newcastle last time out, but this is flatter and easier and it’s thought he will reach a new level this time, something that makes him value to small stakes against the jolly I feel. Lord Lamington is next on the list.
3.10 Newcastle (Handicap) – STRAIGHT RIGHT
Towards the end of this decent all-weather card at Newcastle is a relatively valuable seven-furlong handicap and it has attracted one or two decent ones.
The names of Muntadab and Pinnata are instantly recognisable to flat racing fans, along with two dangers to the selection in the forms of Above The Rest and Intisaab.
The former is eight years old now but finished third as recently as October on this course over six furlongs, so should his 1lb drop in the handicap and the extra furlong make a difference he can be thereabouts.
Intisaab will be very popular in the ring for David O’Meara having been second at Lingfield last time but that was on a very different surface to this one, although in fairness this horse was second in a Group 3 Chipchase Stakes here a couple of years ago so it shouldn’t hold any fears.
The wildcard however has to be Andrew Balding’s Straigfht Right and he is the one to be on. With form figures of 22700 this year he won’t be the choice of those browsing the morning paper, but he hasn’t enjoyed his turf runs at all and wasn’t even totally comfortable on the faster surface at Lingfield.
At Newcastle over seven furlongs though things are different; in February 2018 he won a valuable handicap here before returning almost a year later to finish second off a 7lb higher mark. He’s back down another 7lbs now and in conditions he loves, meaning he should prove to be well-handicapped.