IT HAS BEEN a bit of a phony war since we had our first Graded races of the season earlier this month. Since then, we have seen a few trainers test the waters and give their charges a pipe opener in smaller races.
We now know that Sizing Europe will still be a force to be reckoned with this season after his impressive display at Gowran Park, while Fingal Bay proved he can jump a fence with a solid performance at Chepstow. Hinterland put in an impressive performance at the same Chepstow meeting, though the word from Ditcheat is that he will now go chasing. He’s definitely one for the notebook.
This weekend we have two Grade 2 races to get stuck into, although maybe getting stuck in at this early stage of the season is a bit dangerous.
Saturday: Old Roan Chase (Grade 2)
The Old Roan Chase is a limited handicap over 2m4f at Aintree. Eleven go to post for this renewal with Wishful Thinking heading the weights; his well documented breathing problems cast a shadow over him though and he is one to pass over.
Nacarat was a bit disappointing last year and though he’s reported to have worked well during the week, he has too much to do here. Gauvain, who moved to the Philip Hobbs yard to see if he can be rejuvenated after some poor efforts last spring, is another to avoid.
Paul Nolan’s Noble Prince travels over from Ireland and will have the ground and trip in his favour. Like most of the others, he hasn’t run since the spring and so fitness might find him out. Davy Russell takes the mount.
For Non Stop has some good form in novice chases last year and has won first time out before. The ground and the trip won’t be a problem for him and he should be there or thereabouts. Girgio Quercus disappointed in Graded company last year and it will require some Nicky Henderson magic to see him win here.
Still only a five-year-old, PACHA DU POLDER from the Paul Nicholls stable was very impressive when winning his last start at Ayr back in April. His fitness has to be taken for granted but Nicholls has said that his horses will come on for the run. At the time of writing, five of his last 10 runners have won.
It’s a tricky handicap and the minimum stake is recommended. It may also be advisable to take an early price before the Nicholls supporters wade in at the bookies this morning.
Saturday: Perdian War Hurdle (Grade 2)
Ten minutes after the off at Aintree, the tapes go up at Chepstow for the Perdian War Hurdle over a testing 2m4f on ground which is good to soft at present.
Eleven go to post for this and there are some interesting runners. Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs have won five of the last ten renewals between them and both have chances here.
Wonderful Charm makes his first appearance for team Nicholls following his arrival from France where he won once and was placed twice in six outings. Some of the form stands up and Ruby Walsh riding here could be significant.
Ballybough Pat is on a four-timer having started off with a win in a point-to-point at Ballyhane in December. Bought at the Brightwells sales in January for £38,000, he is now with Arthur Honeyball. Since then he’s won a bumper at Ffos Lass in March and a novice hurdle impressively at Carlisle two weeks ago. His wins have come on good and heavy ground so he shouldn’t have any problems with either ground or trip tomorrow.
Donald McCain has placed Mulligans Man to good effect over the summer and he is now looking for a sixth consecutive win. While he has been impressive in his wins, this could be a step up for him. The same could be said for Special Account who ran up a hat-trick over the summer before been well beaten when stepping up in class at Cheltenham.
Preference is for the Philip Hobbs-trained RETURN SPRING, an impressive 16-length winner of his bumper at Downpatrick last August.
The runner up that day, Dubh Go Leir, was subsequently beaten a short head by Seefood in a bumper at Clonmel in September. The latter then ran out an impressive winner of a maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse last Tuesday to frank the form.
Bought for €15,000 as a foal, Return Spring might reward SP backers tomorrow.