Cloak can swagger to victory
Our Chris Wilson previews a packed Saturday of racing in the UK and Ireland and has a tip for every race.
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LEOPARDSTOWN: 1.15 Our Conor, 1.45 Rising Time, 2.15 Minsk, 2.45 Boston Bob, 3.20 Flemenstar, 3.50 Rocky Wednesday, 4.20 Equus Maximus, 4.50 Azorian.
LINGFIELD: 12.50 Young Jackie, 1.25 Lady Who, 2.00 Danziger, 2.35 Frognal, 3.10 Gabbiano, 3.45 Fratellino, 4.15 Mia's Boy, 4.45 Hamoody.
NEWBURY: 1.15 Lac Fontana, 1.50 Araldur, 2.25 Silviniaco Conti, 3.00 Shooters Wood, 3.35 CLARET CLOAK (NAP), 4.10 Hadrian's Approach, 4.40 Oscar Rock.
UTTOXETER: 1.05 Radio Nowhere, 1.40 Not Til Monday, 2.15 Landenstown Star, 2.50 Tafika, 3.25 Barrakilla, 4.00 Dirty Deal, 4.35 Greywell Boy.
WARWICK: 12.55 Open Day, 1.30 Silver Gypsy, 2.05 Calgary Bay, 2.40 Fago, 3.15 Faultless Feelings, 3.50 Godsmejudge, 4.25 Chiberta King, 4.55 Dark Desire.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 6.20 Flag Of Glory, 6.50 Hillbilly Boy, 7.20 Spark Of Genius, 7.50 Empowermentofwomen, 8.20 Good Evans, 8.50 Blazing Desert, 9.20 One Scoop Or Two.
DOUBLE: Claret Cloak and Fago.
Emma Lavelle can ruffle the feathers of some of her more powerful colleagues by saddling Claret Cloak to victory in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Saturday.
The Andover handler nearly always does a solid job with relatively lightweight ammunition, and has a fine opportunity in which to land a sizeable blow at the Berkshire circuit.
Messrs Henderson, Nicholls and Pipe are well armed for this Grade Three handicap over an extended two miles, but value-seekers, as tends to be commonplace on weekends, should be advised to look elsewhere.
Step forward Claret Cloak, who appears to have the correct attributes to make quite a splash in this grade.
The five-year-old gelding is one of the most unexposed horses in the line-up, having had just four tries over hurdles - two of which last season ended in victory.
His comeback run, at Ascot in November, was particularly satisfying, too, as he got to within two lengths of Raya Star, who then finished second in the Grade One Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
Nothing was finishing quicker than Claret Cloak that day, which was very encouraging given it was his first run since last March, while Lavelle has publicly expressed her glee the handicapper has bumped up her charge by just 3lb.
But perhaps of even greater significance is the likelihood of a decent surface at Newbury.
It had looked at one stage that the ground would be very demanding at the weekend, but a prolonged dry spell could see the going as good as it has been for many weeks in that part of the world.
This is important, as Claret Cloak was taken out of The Ladbroke at Ascot on account of the testing conditions, with his three careers wins achieved on no worse than good to soft.
Unlike a clutch of his Betfair Hurdle rivals who will have even more grandiose ambitions at Cheltenham next month, this is likely to be Claret Cloak's chief aim for the season.
Silviniaco Conti has far less on his plate in the Betfair Denman Chase than when he was so stylish in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November.
His form this season has been rapidly progressive, so much so that he now harbours serious Gold Cup ambitions and at the age of seven it is perfectly reasonable to assume we have not yet seen the best of him.
Silviniaco Conti's trainer Paul Nicholls will be expecting similarly big things from Fago, who goes for gold in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase at Warwick.
This French import did the job nicely on his British bow at Newbury a few weeks ago and deserves to step up to Grade Two level here.
The form from his homeland has taken on added gravitas after Utopie Des Bordes, to whom he finished second in a Grade One chase at Auteuil in November, looked in a different parish at Doncaster on Monday.
Racing from Uttoxeter is distinctly moderate compared to what is on offer at Warwick and Newbury, but Landenstown Star should still be worth a little interest in the 32Red Casino Handicap Hurdle.
Fratellino can also be given another chance in the main event on the all-weather at Lingfield.
Alan McCabe's sprinter has been in good nick this winter, and was a little unfortunate not to get closer to Woolfall Sovereign in a class two handicap here in January.
The six-year-old gelding was trapped for room inside the last of five furlongs and contests the Lingfield Park Owners Group Handicap off a 1lb lower mark.
Although he has done all of his winning over the minimum trip, this step up to six furlongs is hardly a negative.
McCabe could be in for a good day, with Spark Of Genius taken to shine in the Free Bet Bonanza Now At bookmakers.co.uk Fillies' Handicap at Wolverhampton.
Her revised rating will not make things entirely straightforward for this assignment, but she showed over course and distance in mid-January that she is likely to be a danger to all back against her own sex.