It’s all about squeezing out the value this week, with five bets to play across both codes at Doncaster, Newcastle and Wolverhampton.
See also coverage of today's International meeting over on our Cheltenham Blog.
2.05 Doncaster (December Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – HURRICANE HARVEY
This three-mile event will take come getting for the novices, but in Hurricane Harvey we have a horse who is going the right way overall and appears to want this test.
Colin Tizzard’s Ofalltheginjoints may well go off a strong favourite for the race after his Exeter victory, but Hurricane Harvey’s form wasn’t too far behind that on debut and that was over what now appears to be a slightly inadequate 2½ miles.
Fergal O’Brien’s six-year-old wasn’t too hot last time out when the ground was against him, but he is an attractive price today to get the job done under jockey Paddy Brennan. House Island may also grab a place.
2.20 Newcastle (Conditions Stakes) – MILDENBERGER
This is a high-quality conditions race over the two-mile track, one that may serve as an early trial for the Northumberland Plate as well as a number of top Pattern races over staying distances next spring.
Many of the names you’d expect over this course and distance are present; Stargazer, Raymond Tusk, Carnwennan et al, while Rainbow Dreamer also makes a rather congested shortlist.
The one who sticks out should he get somewhere near his best however is Mark Johnston’s Mildenberger. Out of form in two turf runs most recently, he was an excellent second in the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes over this course and distance behind stablemate Nayef Road in June and a return to anything like that form would see him dominate this race.
As a four-year-old Mildenberger was placed in this event behind Raymond Tusk, but he has improved significantly since then and is therefore not best judged on that admittedly good run.
2.40 Doncaster (Summit Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – GLORIOUS ZOFF
This potentially important Grade 2 juvenile hurdle has the look of a match on paper. The five-runner race has two horses whose form looks substandard on paper, a newcomer over hurdles and the two standout performers; Monmiral and Glorious Zoff.
The first-named is a former French runner now trained by Paul Nicholls. Officially, he is rated highest at 137 here but I feel that rather overestimates what he’s done so far.
The form of Monmiral’s winning British debut at Exeter, while impressive enough on the eye, closely matches what he did in France when winning back in March and neither of those two runs entitle him to a mark of 137.
Naturally, he is expected to improve in lumps, but he’d need to do that just to get to the level Glorious Zoff reached on his own debut at Sligo in October and he is bound to be a fair bit better than that now.
Gordon Elliott’s charge didn’t perform when expected next time on the track, but all horses are allowed one blip and so now with natural progression expected and the added bonus of receiving 5lbs in weight from his main rival, he looks terrific value to win this race under Robbie Power with Monmiral looking like going off at odds-on.
2.55 Newcastle (Handicap) – MYSEVEN
This is a competitive enough race for an eight-runner, Class 4 handicap but there are two outstanding candidates on paper and it would be no surprise to see them fighting it out on the uphill finish at Gosforth Park.
The first is likely favourite Dublin Pharaoh. As a son of American Pharoah, it’s hardly surprising that Roger Varian’s colt seems at home over this sort of track and trip, in fact he’s already a course and distance winner.
In winning at Lingfield in February over a mile, at Sandown on the turf over 1¼ miles and at Newcastle last time over this mile-and-a-half trip his versatility has already been proven but while he is consistent, his rate of improvement isn’t actually that steep.
Add to this the fact that the excellent James Doyle was riding last time out and he is now on board his main rival, he may well just come a cropper here.
Doyle rides Myseven, Simon and Ed Crisford’s only runner of the weekend for Sheikh Ahmed, who himself is a last-time-out winner on the all-weather over a mile-and-a-half.
That was at Kempton Park on a different surface but there is every reason to believe that he will love the Tapeta and given that he is by Golden Horn out of a Darshaan mare the stiffer test that Newcastle provides should also be right up his street.
7.15 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – ONE NIGHT STAND
We have a maximum 13-runner field for this Class 3 six-furlong handicap, one that may well be fought out by the younger horses in the line-up.
The likes of Ornate and Merhoob are not finished yet of course, but the natural improvement being shown by four-year-old Astro Jakk and three-year-olds One Night Stand, Melodic Charm and Misty Grey should hold sway.
Astro Jakk comes into this race on a hat-trick for Karl Burke, but he has just about been getting home at Newcastle and while this track is a little easier, he has been raised in the weights once again.
Melodic Charm is an interesting one given that he was a good-looking course and distance winner two outings ago. He wasn’t so hot at Kempton next time, though he may not have appreciated the change in surface so off a 2lb higher mark than when winning in October he remains high on the list.
Better still could be the chances of William Jarvis’ One Night Stand. Also a course and distance winner, the three-year-old gelding won with a bit in hand last month and refreshingly has been left alone to recover rather then being turned out quickly.
He’s up just 5lbs for that, something his comfortable rise from 73 when winning at Windsor to 80 when winning here shows he can handle no bother.