There are some cracking jumps in action this weekend, including the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (formerly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup).
Andrew Mount, horse racing expert, sums this one up…
APPLE’S JADE, second by a nose to IRVING in last year’s Fighting Fifth, ended last season with Grade 1 wins at the Cheltenham and Punchestown festivals and comfortably accounted for the useful Jer’s Girl at Navan on her recent comeback.
She has yet to be beaten by more than two lengths in her 12-race career – recording form figures of 112112212111 – but she might wait 24 hours for the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse, a race she landed 12 months ago.
— Horse Racing News (@HorseRacingUK) November 28, 2017
BUVEUR D’AIR took his record over obstacles to 113111111 when following up his Champion Hurdle success in the 2m4f Aintree Hurdle and will be a tough nut to crack. However, that’s reflected in his current odds of 1/3 and I’d rather take an each-way chance with last year’s winner IRVING.
The Paul Nicholls-trained veteran also landed this 2m contest in 2014 and is clearly at his best when fresh, with seasonal debut figures of 1F11 since joining his current yard.
The Newcastle card ends with the Rehearsal Handicap Chase (3.20) over a trip just short of 3m.
With soft ground likely, this could be a real war of attrition and the suggestion is the Venetia Williams-trained YALA ENKI. He was pulled up on his comeback but jumped persistently out to his left at right-handed Wincanton that day and will be better suited for this track.
He scored second-time out last season, loves the mud and his yard won this race 12 months ago.
Newbury’s big race looks typically competitive, but we can narrow the field by concentrating on the younger horse.
Nine of the last ten winners were aged between six and eight, with the exception the nine-year-old Denman in 2009 who was winning the race for the second time.
The Nicky Henderson-trained WHISPER (8/1) took his chase figures to 211221 when accounting for subsequent scorer Clan Des Obeaux in a match at Kempton last time and his narrow Cheltenham festival second to Might Bite reads well.
However, he was switched to fences relatively late in his career.
The nine-year-old has plenty of weight to carry.
AMERICAN (11/2) was hugely progressive over the larger obstacles last term, winning three from three. Those runs took place on soft ground and, if the weather forecast is correct, ground conditions might not be slow enough for Harry Fry’s seven-year-old.
TOTAL RECALL (9/2) heads the market but this hasn’t been a good race for Irish raiders in recent years and the Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old, though impressive in the Munster National on his stable debut last time, has never recorded back-to-back wins.
He’s open to further improvement after just six chase outings and looks by far the strongest bet in the race.
Four of the last five winners of the Intermediate Hurdle (2.25) were four-year-olds.
And DIVIN BERE (7/1) is taken to make a successful debut for the Paul Nicholls yard.
He hasn’t raced since April’s second to Defi Su Seuil at Aintree but won at the first time of asking for previous handler Nicky Henderson last term.
REMILUC was only third at Fontwell on his most recent outing but that race was run in a very fast time and he can land the 2m4f handicap hurdle.
Chris Gordon’s eight-year-old won here over a shorter trip back in March and the form has been well advertised by the runner-up Chesterfield (two wins since) and third-home Golden Birthday, subsequently successful on six occasions.
Newbury’s card closes with the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy, a competitive 2m handicap chase in which EXITAS can regain the winning thread. He was probably unsuited by being ridden close to the pace when only third at Cheltenham last time and is best judged on his previous seven-length Ascot romp.
Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle (Newbury 1.50, Saturday) – Remiluc (16/1)
Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Newcastle 2.10, Saturday) – Irving (13/2)
Intermediate Hurdle (Newbury 2.25, Saturday) – Divin Bere (7/1)
Ladbrokes Trophy (Newbury 3.00, Saturday) – Singlefarmpayment (7/1)
Rehearsal Handicap Chase (Newcastle 3.20, Saturday) – Yala Enki (10/1)
Jim Joel Memorial Trophy (Newbury 3.35, Saturday) – Exitas (8/1)