There are five horses on our man's shortlist for Newbury this weekend including one he feels has been let in leniently for handicap debut.
With some rain forecast on Wednesday and Thursday, it is hoped that will be sufficient amounts for Nicky Henderson to unleash expensive Irish point recruit JET POWERED in the opening two miles maiden hurdle (12.10) on Friday.
The Seven Barrows outfit have won the event a handful of times during the last eight years, including with subsequent Grade 1 winners Buveur D’Air (2015) and Jonbon (2021). A five year old gelding by Jet Away who will sport the ‘Shishkin silks’ of Joe and Marie Donnelly, he routed ten opponents by upwards of eight lengths at Borris House (Yielding/Soft) in mid December last year (second, third and fourth have won since). Purchased online four days later for a chunky 350,000gns, he is a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Westerner Lady and looks a high-class horse in the making. Victory here could have connections thinking in terms of the Tolworth Novice Hurdle at Sandown early in the New Year.
The Coral Racing Club Novices’ Handicap Chase for the Fulke Walwyn Trophy on Friday (12.45) looks an intriguing affair with former Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory topping the weights off a mark of 147. There are four previous chase winners amongst the eight strong entries with the other half being made up with fencing debutants.
BALCO COASTAL fits into the latter category but doesn’t lack chasing experience having filled second position in an Irish point-to-point for Sean Doyle behind the 150 rated hurdler Gentlemansgame. Twice a winner over timber for Nicky Henderson last season, the Coastal Path gelding is at his best on flat tracks and goes well fresh – his first out record is 21. The return to two miles won’t be an issue and the better the ground, the better his chance. It will be a surprise if he doesn’t end up a fair bit higher than his current mark of 133.
KILLER CLOWN didn’t get home over two miles six in the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at this fixture twelve months ago. Once dropped back in distance, Emma Lavelle’s eight year old recorded victories at Wincanton and Kempton off marks of 135 and 140.
The Getaway gelding shaped pleasingly on his reappearance when three and a half lengths third behind Kiltealy Briggs at Market Rasen last month. That outing should have left him spot on for the two and a half miles handicap chase on Friday (2.30) and, while he is still seeking his first win on a left handed track, he was a length runner-up in the Grade 3 Greatwood Gold Cup over C&D in March last year. Market leader Beakstown has obvious claims having finished fourth in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and that form has been franked in no uncertain terms by Hitman and Ga Law winning since, but Killer Clown can give the Skelton runner plenty to think about and reward each-way support.
Paul Nicholls has won the Grade 2 Coral John Francome Novices’ Chase on Saturday (12.45) on ten occasions and the champion trainer has two entries at this stage. GELINO BELLO made heavy weather of winning on his chasing debut at Wetherby in late October scrambling home by half a length but is expected to have improved markedly since.
A Grade 1 winning novice hurdler, he handles decent ground and his best form is arguably on flat left handed tracks. Indeed, he is a previous course winner. Amongst the opposition, Listed winner Beauport would arguably prefer softer ground, while Thyme Hill didn’t totally convince in the jumping department on his first spin over fences at Exeter. The Saint Des Saints gelding can book his place for the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
WEST BALBOA hasn’t been seen since chasing home Stage Star in the Grade 1 Challow Novice Hurdle over C&D in late December. Indeed the six year old has only raced three times during her short career finishing runner-up in an Irish point for Aidan Fitzgerald before being bought privately to join Team Skelton. An effortless winner on her Rules bow at Warwick a year ago, the daughter of Yeats was plunged in deep next time but was only half a dozen lengths behind the Paul Nicholls trained winner over Christmas.
An opening rating of 127 may well underestimate her and she ought to go close in the 0-150 two and a half miles handicap hurdle on Saturday (1.55). The locally trained Walking On Air, who has also only raced on three occasions, could be even better handicapped off 132, but needs to bounce back from a disappointing display at Aintree last spring. Skelton won the prize with Flash of Steel a couple of years back.
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