Daly ace to land Newbury pot
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews Saturday's action at Newbury and Doncaster.
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Shropshire trainer Henry Daly did my reader a good turn a few weeks ago when Quentin Collonges won at Doncaster and I hope he might produce another goodwill offering with Mickie in the EBF Ultima Solutions Mares Novices' Hurdle Final at Newbury on Saturday.
The daughter of Kayf Tara, who is related to several fair chasers, proved no match for Cheltenham Festival winner The New One in a Grade Two event at Warwick in January but then appeared to run the best race of her career so far when chasing home Prima Porta at Ludlow where Highland Retreat (a winner since and now 1lb worse off) finished well back in third.
That form was given an additional boost when the winner ran a storming race (at 40/1) to finish sixth behind the mighty Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham last week.
Mickie has improved with every outing this season; she stays the trip well, has a very good attitude and acts on soft ground. Jake Greenall takes off 3lb.
In a competitive race, Call Me A Star and Eleven Fifty Nine are others to consider - these two mares are closely matched on their bumper form last season and have progressed fairly well over hurdles - while I was impressed with the battling qualities of Alder Mairi when lumbered with a big penalty at Exeter last time.
Ballinahow Star, successful in her last two starts, and Umadachar (the mount of AP McCoy) are others with leading chances.
The William Hill Lincoln at Doncaster may well have to be re-staged next Saturday as the weather forecast for Town Moor is grim and, if the race does go ahead, conditions are bound to be extremely testing.
To be honest, it looks a bit of a lottery but I saw Swiftly Done win in similarly deep ground at Newcastle last season when he looked a progressive handicapper.
That day, he really began to stay on in the eighth and final furlong so should see this stamina-sapping mile out in good style.
The booking of little-known apprentice Luke Leadbitter is unusual given the prize money at stake here but trainer Declan Carroll clearly has faith in the lad (who has ridden just one winner) and his 7lb allowance, which reduces Swiftly Done's weight to 8st3lb, could be crucial. The selection will receive a minimum of 6lb from every other runner in the race.
One should always be on the lookout for the lightly raced improver in the Lincoln, especially if they hail from a decent yard, and Lahaag (John Gosden) and Gladys' Gal (Roger Varian) are two horses who could figure on higher handicap marks over the next few months.
Meanwhile, Strictly Silver, recent winner of the trial for this race at Wolverhampton, is another horse going places and his rider Robert Tart (claiming five) continues to catch the eye. However, connections are worried that the ground will be too soft.