All eyes will be on Altior as Nicky’s star chaser bids to regain the winning thread in the Game Spirit at Newbury. Native River and Might Bite go head to head again in the Denman Chase but it would appear that the front-running chestnut has the measure of Nicky’s charge. The Betfair hurdle is typically competitive with the featherweight Mack The Man subject of an ante-post gamble but I think the Irish-raider Ciel De Neige can put a luckless run over Christmas behind him. The Kingmaker is the main event at Warwick where Nube Negra should take all the beating.
Bet In-Play Handicap Hurdle
One For The Team won on debut but hasn’t added to his tally since going hurdling. A mark of 130 looks feasible with connections no doubt keeping on eye on the Pertemps Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Anytime Will Do ran very well behind the classy Phoneix Way at Huntingdon and although that was a very good run, it was a hard race and he may need more time.
Previous course winner Acey Milan has the assistance of the very capable three-pound claimer Rex Dingle and with his favoured Good to Soft underfoot conditions, he should go well.
Selection: One For The Team
Game Spirit Chase
Altior bids for a third straight victory in this contest and although he lost his unbeaten record at Ascot, he never looked like he was really travelling. The reports from Seven Barrows have been “bullish” of late and he should regain the winning thread.
The Paul Nicholls’ yard has been firing in the winners of late and he takes the bubble wrap off Dynamite Dollars who hasn’t run in over a year. Prior to his break, he won four of his five chase outings but may have to settle for second-best here.
I was surprised that Bun Doran won the Desert Orchid Chase when last seen as I’ve always thought of him as a spring horse. He’ll undoubtedly run well but lacks the quality to win.
Native River renews rivalry with Might Bite who he seems to have the upper hand over on their recent meetings. Colin Tizzards former Gold Cup winner looks like he back to something near his best and can win this race for the third time.
Secret Investor was outclassed in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup when last seen and although he’s a nice type I can’t see him troubling the principals.
Selection: Native River
The horse for money in recent days has been Mack The Man who creeps in at the bottom of the weights for Evan Williams. He was a snug winner of a Listed contest at Sandown in December and there is much more to come from him.
Not So Sleepy had a very busy 2019 running eleven times throughout the year. He was a very easy winner of a Grade 3 contest at Ascot in December but the handicapper handed him a seventeen-pound penalty for that victory which will make life tough.
Harambe flew home to nab Gumball late on in the Greatwood back in November but we haven’t seen Alan King’s smart sort since and he may need the run.
The most unexposed horse in the field is the Irish-raider Ciel De Neige who finished third in the Fred Winter on his first start for current connections. Although he’s yet to win, he was very unlucky at Limerick over Christmas and could be very well handicapped.
Selection: Ciel De Neige – E/W
Kingmaker Novices’ Chase
Nube Negra has always shown a high level of form including when finishing third in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham. He’s looked even better since going chasing and went down fighting in a Grade 1 at Sandown before Christmas. Dan Skelton’s six-year-old is already a course and distance winner this season and it’s hard to look past him.
Rouge Vif never runs a bad race and was Grade 1 placed last season. He ran well on his first run since a win-op and with the benefit of that run he can push the favourite all the way.
Nicky Henderson’s Precious Cargo is very lightly-raced and although he was a beaten favourite on his last start, there is more to come and he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Selection: Nube Negra
31 Sleeps To Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle
The Grade 2 placed Indefatigale has run some solid races this season but has yet to get her head in front and although she should be competitive at this level it was disappointing that she was beaten last time out and I’ll look elsewhere.
We haven’t seen Cap Soleil in nearly a year but she possesses plenty of ability having previously finished runner-up behind Laurina in the Mares’ novice at the Cheltenham festival. I’d imagine this will be used as a stepping stone back to the festival.
Legends Gold has won four of her last five starts but this represents a big step up in class and I can’t see here featuring here. It can often be hard to get a handle on the French form but Ch’ti Diamond did beat Fusil Raffles in her native country and is an intriguing contender.
Selection: Ch’ti Diamond
Warwick castle Handicap Chase
The lightly-raced Two Taffs finished third in the Kingmaker on this card two years ago. He was disappointing in the Ladbrokes Trophy but has been dropped three-pounds since and has leading claims.
I have a soft spot for Gala Ball who’s only two-pounds higher than his recent Wincanton victory. He’s only been out of the places once in nine starts and must go close.
Katpoli beat the smart Hawk High at Wetherby in January and four-pounds seems very fair. He’s on a real upward curve and must enter calculations.
Selection: Two Taffs
Nube Negra – 1pt Win
Ciel De Neige – 2pt E/W