Don't pass the Buck's
Man On The Spot previews Saturday's terrestrial television races at Cheltenham and Doncaster.
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Wishfull Thinking won this in 2011 but has 9lb more to carry this year. OUR MICK had every chance in the race 12 months ago when he was hampered and unseated his rider three out and is 5lb lower now. Donald McCain's charge could be interesting today in first-time blinkers and gets a tentative vote. Venetia Williams, successful last year, saddles both Renard and Shangani this time. The latter looks better treated while this could well be the day that Cedre Bleu decides to put his head back in front as he's 6lb better off than when beaten four-and-a-half lengths by the hat-trick-seeking Double Ross here on New Year's Day - third Kumbeshwar looks held. Tap Night, Ulck Du Lin and Sew On Target have all been disappointing this season.
ANNIE POWER will be a short price to extend her unbeaten record under Rules. Despite re-opposing on worse terms, she beat Zarkandar far more easily at Cheltenham last time than she had at Ascot in November and none of her rivals have the same progressive profile. Cockney Sparrow kept My Tent Or Yours up to his work in the Fighting Fifth last time having beaten Alasi and Doyly Carte in a Listed hurdle at Wetherby earlier. She looks the only conceivable danger if the drop in distance counts against Willie Mullins' mare as Pass The Time is only a handicapper.
Charlie Hall Chase winner Harry Topper was very disappointing when last of three at Sandown subsequently and has to give weight to all of his rivals here. This is probably too far for Champion Court but ROCKY CREEK is a sound stayer and has the beating of Houblon Des Obeaux on their run together in the Hennessy. He looks the one to beat, though it's unlikely he'll end up in the Gold Cup unless others fall by the wayside. Restless Harry's luck changed at Newbury 10 days ago but he shouldn't be good enough to win a race like this and neither Pigeon Island nor The Giant Bolster appeal on what they've shown this season, though the latter does like it here.
This Grade 2 has produced a few decent stayers down the years but usually over fences. Paul Nicholls won it with Neptune Collonges in 2006 and this year's entry, Aerial, has already won four times over the larger obstacles. Timesremembered only found one too good in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle last month but, like Chepstow and Haydock winner Sausalito Sunrise, has to give a couple of pounds to his rivals. Haydock scorer Urban Hymn should stay the extra and is interesting while Warden Hill won over course and distance six weeks ago, though has more on his plate today. Walk On Al could also come up short but RACING PULSE will surely be thereabouts back over a longer trip. He couldn't quite match the pace of Aubusson and Regal Diamond over 2m5f at Cheltenham but won over 3m between the flags and has the beating of Newcastle scorer Blakemount on a line through Ballyalton.
Lizzie Kelly gave AUBUSSON a superb ride here at the start of the month, gradually winding up the pace and galloping strongly up the hill to beat Regal Diamond by just over two lengths. He looks a very nice prospect and the 7lb claimer can enjoy the biggest success of her short career in this even though she can't use her allowance. Rathvinden was already struggling when falling at Warwick two weeks ago in a race in which Creepy finished tailed off. Both have a bit to prove now while Madness Light steps up in class. Red Sherlock has won both starts over hurdles and, though the form is nothing special, he is open to plenty of further improvement.
Gullinbursti has always been held in high regard by Emma Lavelle but he hasn't quite fulfilled his potential so far over fences, winning just once in six starts. He has his fair share of weight here, as does the hat-trick-seeking Kruzhlinin who has done most of his winning north of the border. Unioniste is undoubtedly the class act but favourites have a poor record in this and he appeared to have a hard race in the Lexus at Leopardstown over Christmas. Grand National hero Auroras Encore is being targeted at Aintree again but Time For Rupert could be nicely treated on past form and it would be no surprise to see novice According To Trev in the firing-line if his jumping holds up. NIGHT IN MILAN beat subsequent winners Mart Lane and Baile Anrai here six weeks ago and, though the front-runner will be there to be shot at in the closing stages, Keith Reveley's charge will gallop all the way to the line and can repel all-comers.
It will be all systems go for yet another World Hurdle if BIG BUCK'S comes through this unscathed. Paul Nicholls' stayer has been patiently nursed back to health and, though this will be the 11-year-old's first run since beating Reve De Sivola by nine lengths in the 2012 Long Walk Hurdle, defeat is unlikely. Reve De Sivola has been cashing in while the champion has been away, winning last month's Long Walk at Ascot where At Fishers Cross was a beaten horse when crashing out at the last. The latter has much to prove now. Boston Bob's chase career stalled last spring but he made a winning return over hurdles and may be kept to the smaller obstacles for the time being. He makes more appeal than Knockara Beau and Quartz De Thaix, also better known as chasers.