In the Stella Artois Handicap Chase (3.45) at Bangor-on-Dee on Thursday, the charmingly-named I Am Colin has been lightly raced, but has made decent progress since sent over fences in November and won in convincing style, at the fourth time of asking, at Leicester earlier this month. He steps into 0-125 company for the first time over fences off a 10lb higher mark, but left the impression that he had more to offer at Leicester, so may well be up to the task in first-time cheekpieces.
In the Weatherbys Handicap Hurdle (3.55) at Ffos Las, it’s probably fair to say that Driftashore enjoyed the run of the race when winning over course and distance recently, having been allowed to pull 20 lengths clear of her nearest pursuer by halfway, eventually coming home, unchallenged, by 11 lengths. The Jackson’s Drift gelding had been well beaten on both previous starts this season, but it would be unwise to write the performance off as a fluke and, if the form can be taken at face value, he looks to have every chance of following up under a 7lb penalty.
Selections: Bangor-on-Dee 3.45 I Am Colin, Ffos Las 3.55 Driftashore, 1-point Win Double
Winning chaser Blades Lad has been in excellent form on the Fibresand at Southwell in recent weeks and can defy a 6lb penalty in the 3.30 at the Nottinghamshire course on Tuesday. Peter Niven’s 7-year-old kept on strongly to beat Art Scholar by 6 lengths in a similar race over course and distance last week and, if in the same mood, must take some beating once again. The Haafhd gelding has form figures of 31315211 on the course and looks to have been found a decent opportunity to complete a hat-trick.
In the 4.00 on the Southwell card, Ticking Away proved a revelation on his Fibresand debut last week, very easily drawing clear to beat Fumbo Jumbo by 2¾ lengths and a 6lb penalty may not be enough to prevent him from following up. Dropping back to the minimum trip for just the second time in his career, the Monsieur Bond gelding was sent off a well-backed 6/4 favourite, so was clearly ‘expected’ and, while he takes a significant step up in class, he could well be equal to the task.
Selections: Southwell 3.30 Blades Lad, Southwell 4.00 Ticking Away, 1-point Win Double
Last year, Willie Mullins trained a record-breaking eight winners at the Cheltenham Festival and the legendary Irish trainer has assembled another formidable team this time around. Mullins rates Douvan in the Arkle Trophy (2.10) on Tuesday as his best chance of the week and, while his odds are prohibitive, he could form the basis of a lucrative multiple bet for this column. Last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has made a seamless transition to fences, winning all three starts with a minimum of fuss, and cannot sensibly be opposed.
In the Champion Hurdle (3.30), Annie Power has yet to win over 2 miles at the highest level, but that fact doesn’t seem to bother her trainer and, in receipt of the mares’ allowance, she’s favoured by the race conditions. Her one and only defeat in 14 completed starts came when second, beaten 1½ lengths, behind More Of That in the World Hurdle two seasons ago, but she is admirably versatile distance-wise and has won numerous times over the minimum trip.
Vroum Vroum Mag is another who’s won from distances ranging from 2 miles and 110 yards to 2 miles 7 furlongs and 118 yards over hurdles and she can record her first Grade 1 success in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (4.10). The intermediate distance should suit her down to the ground and the manner of her most recent victory, at Ascot in December, suggested her first victory at the highest level is just a matter of time.
Selections: Cheltenham 2.10 Douvan, Cheltenham 3.30 Annie Power, Cheltenham 4.10 Vroum Vroum Mag, 1-point Win Treble
In the 4.35 at Leicester, Some Finish is by the leading British jumps sire Kayf Tara and, after a slow start, has found some form over regulation fences in recent months. Robin Dickin’s 7-year-old failed to complete on his first two attempts over the larger obstacles, at Taunton and Uttoxeter, in January, but has since won twice over 2 miles 4 furlongs on this course and looks reasonably treated for his hat-trick attempt. A 7lb penalty is offset by a drop back into 0-100 company and he faces fully exposed opposition.
The 5.10 is probably best left to Dineur, now in the charge of Mickey Bowen after spells with Peter Bowen and Alan King. The 10-year-old was rated 137 at his peak and, although in decline, made a solid start for his new connections when second of nine, beaten 5 lengths, behind Night Alliance on his hunter chase debut at Ffos Las last month. All his wins have come over 2 miles 5 furlongs or shorter, so dropping back in distance could be a wise ploy.
Selections: Leicester 4.35 Some Finish, Leicester 5.10 Dineur 1-point Win Double
In the Ladbrokes Apprentice Handicap (5.10) at Lingfield on Tuesday, Eastern Dragon is with his fourth trainer since last August and was on a losing run of 17 prior to making his debut for Seamus Durack over 7 furlongs at Wolverhampton a week ago. However, better was clearly expected of the Elnadim gelding because not only was he sent off 15/8 favourite for that contest, but justified favouritism with something in hand, running on well to beat Calendonian Laird by a comfortable 1½ lengths. His previous success also came over 7 furlongs, at Brighton in October 2014, off a handicap mark of 73 so, even under a 6lb penalty, he looks remarkably well handicapped if anywhere remotely near his best form.
In the Coral Handicap (3.40), Cosmic Halo has been beaten half a length and a nose, in this grade, on his last two starts over course and distance and deserves a change of luck. A 2lb rise in the weights is probably neither here nor there for the Halling mare, who’s won off a 7lb higher mark in the past. She’s accumulating a lengthy losing run but, while she’s never won on a synthetic surface, there appears nothing wrong with her attitude.
Selections: Lingfield 5.10 Eastern Dragon, Lingfield 3.40 Cosmic Halo, 1-point Win Double