McManus to land big-race double
Man On The Spot previews all of Saturday's terrestrial television action from Newbury and Newcastle.
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David Pipe has acquired the former Grade 1 winning hurdler Punjabi and Tom Scudamore rides the 10-year-old in this, though he's not the force of old and the stable may have better prospects with Shotavodka. The latter is only a couple of pounds higher than when second at Bangor and Kieron Edgar takes off 7lb. Mischievous Milly made a promising comeback in a Listed race at Wetherby while Native Gallery has the past form to figure. Don't Be Late reserves his best for Worcester, however, and Gibb River may need another run or two to put him straight after a lay-off. The Bear Trap doesn't always find a great deal off the bridle but should be in the firing-line, while Citizenship is potentially well treated on his first start for Venetia Williams. Saphir Du Rheu is unexposed, as is Master Of The Game. But so is GASSIN GOLF and the handicapper may have underestimated Richard Lee's four-year-old. Though still a maiden, the bottom weight has run some fine races in novice company and deserves a change of luck.
John Quinn won this with the four-year-old Countrywide Flame a year ago and attempts the double with Cockney Sparrow, who went from handicaps to landing a mares' Listed hurdle at Wetherby. Despite her allowance, she'll need massive improvement to take care of the principals, in this case the very progressive Melodic Rendezvous, already a Grade 1 winner in Sandown's Tolworth Hurdle and arriving in top form after his Listed success at Wincanton when Cotton Mill was behind, and MY TENT OR YOURS. The latter just gets the nod as he's won first time out in the past two seasons and, after a narrow defeat by Champagne Fever in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, he ended his campaign easily beating his three rivals in a Grade 2 at Aintree. Grumeti, a close third to Countrywide Flame in last year's Triumph Hurdle, then beat the winner in an Aintree Grade 1 and an absence since April shouldn't pose too much of a problem. The remainder have plenty to find.
AT FISHERS CROSS made giant strides last season after winning a handicap on this card 12 months ago. Rebecca Curtis' six-year-old won Grade 1 contests at Cheltenham and Aintree in the spring and this is his chance to stake a claim for the World Hurdle next year as he receives 4lb from Reve De Sivola, no match for the brilliant Big Bucks in this 12 months ago but successful in the Long Walk Hurdle subsequently. He was also second to Quevega at Punchestown last spring and won a Grade 1 at Auteuil earlier this month, though this looks a stronger contest. Celestial Halo had Reve De Sivola behind when second in last season's World Hurdle and will ensure there is a strong gallop while Medinas was only beaten a length in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby on his return to action. Battle Group took advantage of some lenient handicapping over hurdles and fences in the spring but was pulled up on his reappearance in Paddy Power Gold Cup and may be out his depth in the grade.
Ultimate easily won a handicap on the Flat at Catterick last month before creating a real shock when landing a Listed handicap over fences at Wetherby. This longer trip could be a problem however. Mister Marker, third in the Scottish National in April, returned to action at Carlisle where he ran a superb race under a huge weight to get within a couple of lengths of Global Power. He's an obvious contender while Gordon Elliott wouldn't be sending Tarquinius from Ireland without good reason and if the ground turns very soft he would have to be considered. VINTAGE STAR is only just out of the novice stage and he made mistakes when scoring at Carlisle earlier this month but he's a very progressive type on a fair mark for his handicap debut and can take this for the Grand National winning team. The 2011 winner Hey Big Spender faces a tougher task despite being lower in the weights.
This used to be an important Grand National trial but Bob's Worth's victory last year and subsequent triumph in the Gold Cup suggests it can also be used as a pointer towards Cheltenham nowadays. The great Denman won it twice and proven class has become increasingly important in recent years. Lord Windermere is attempting to emulate Bob's Worth, arriving off the back of victory in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March. Prince De Beauchene is a Grade 2 winner and supplements a strong Irish challenge. Houblon Des Obeaux beat Merry King over 3m at Ascot but was well behind Lord Windermere at Cheltenham and was beaten by Rocky Creek on better terms at Ascot earlier. Paul Nicholls' lightly-raced seven-year-old is certainly interesting in this while Our Father goes well fresh and may have a bit more scope than Hadrian's Approach. Theatre Guide is hard to predict but has each-way claims if on a going day and Invictus had smart novice form before his enforced break. HIGHLAND LODGE didn't run his race behind Rocky Creek at Warwick in January after beating Our Father at Cheltenham but is 11lb better off here and looked right back to his best when chasing home the prolific Standing Ovation, who was receiving 26lb, at Wincanton on his reappearance. Emma Lavelle's stayer can come out on top today.
Next Sensation is a young chaser on the up but will need another career-best effort to complete his hat-trick in this better grade. Last year's winner Ulck Du Lin may have needed his run at Ascot but it was another poor performance off the back of two disappointing runs at the end of last season. Rody will do well to defy his welter burden following a break while stablemate Parsnip Pete couldn't follow up his Southwell win off a higher mark behind Anay Turge at Cheltenham. The latter is now 7lb higher but is a consistent type while Consigliere, winner of this in 2009, still retains plenty of ability. TETLAMI may have not quite lived up to early expectations but still boasts an impressive strike-rate and can win his first handicap over fences here off a decent mark.