Think Great(wood), think Pepite
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews Saturday's feature race action from Doncaster and Newbury.
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Very few trainers are having a better season than Venetia Williams who is fancied to continue her winning ways with PEPITE ROSE in the Stan James Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury on Saturday.
Weather conditions look set to stay dry at the Berkshire venue which will suit this mare whose best form over fences has come on good ground including two previously successful forays at this course.
Pepite Rose made a creditable reappearance off this mark when third at Ascot in early November but hasn't been seen since finishing well beaten behind high class opposition in very deep ground on the same course three weeks later.
It's highly likely that her shrewd trainer has been waiting for the spring with this mare and, given her evident liking for Newbury, it would be no surprise if this race has been targeted.
The weights are headed by 2010 winner Big Fella Thanks who cannot be ruled out again despite advancing years after a win at Wincanton last time and another good run at Aintree (where he always seems to run
well) before that. But I am not sure he can concede 10lb to the selection who, just a six-year-old, should have more improvement in her.
The likely favourite is the Paul Nicholls-trained The Knoxs, a horse who clearly has talent but may equally be somewhat fragile.
The 10-year-old has raced intermittently but was certainly going well before falling at the final fence here at the end of November and, if everything fits into place for him, he seems bound to be thereabouts.
In that race, the veteran Mahogany Blaze ran a blinder, going down narrowly to Bless The Wings, and a reproduction of that performance would also give him claims; the Nigel Twiston Davies-handled gelding is preferred to recent winners Midnight Sail and Saved By John who appear raised in class.
David Pipe can never be ignored with his big-race Saturday runners and Garynella, at the foot of the handicap, is unexposed and ran better than the distance he was beaten when third to the improved Shooters Wood on his English debut at Cheltenham in December.
At Doncaster, those old friends and rivals Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh have decent chances aboard Calgary Bay and Join Together in the featured William Hill Grimthorpe Handicap Chase.
However, neither chaser holds too many secrets from the official handicapper who may regret dropping QUENTIN COLLONGES 9lb since December.
Henry Daly's grey has admittedly been below form in his last three starts but a breathing problem was detected when he pulled up in the Scottish National last April and he is now fitted with a tongue strap.
What's more, this horse boasts two wins from three visits to Doncaster, will be well suited by the ground and, as I say, is certainly well handicapped on his best form.
A small wager at hopefully decent odds could give us some fun.