1:20 Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase 2m 6f 93yds
Dublin Four has a few non-completions on his card and that has to be a slight concern, but he is a course and distance winner whose record at the track on good or good to soft ground reads 11U, and his unseat came when travelling much the best here in April.
He is very well suited by the demands of Newbury, and very much caught the eye on his return at Wetherby, where the hold-up tactics were overdone.
The impression given at Wetherby was that of a tune-up for a bigger target and, given his record here, this valuable contest has always been the obvious target for Dublin Four. He needs to maintain his concentration over the early fences, but should get this run to suit.
Of the others, I feel the need to give Lieutenant Rocco another mention for all I think he will need this run for fitness. It appears that Syd Hosie’s horses are now being conditioned by Gay Kelleway, although her name is yet to appear on the licence, and that fact alone makes the yard of some interest.
He also wears a hood and tongue tie for the first time, and my feeling is that the clever Kelleway will find the key to this horse sooner rather than later.
1:55 Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle 2m 4f 118yds
Nicky Henderson tends to deliver at this meeting and won this race with Champ in 2018. He has a similarly exciting prospect here in the shape of Walking On Air, who looked one to follow when winning on his hurdles bow here in January over two miles.
On that occasion, he scored by 13 lengths and a length from a pair of next-time winners who are now rated 122 and 114 respectively, making Walking On Air’s opening mark of 127 look lenient on that basis.
He couldn’t cope with Grade 1 company after a break at Aintree, but that was a huge ask after an interrupted preparation on just his second hurdles start, and shouldn’t count against him.
His lack of experience remains a slight concern, but this is a realistic assignment, and he has been handed a very good opportunity.
2:30 Coral Bet Bundles Intermediate Handicap Hurdle 2m 69yds
It’s intriguing that this race was never under consideration for Constitution Hill, and I suspect that’s because Nicky Henderson was very happy with the shape of the race, which he should dominate.
To clarify, this would have looked a penalty kick for Constitution Hill, who would have seen most of his rivals out of the weights, and/or running for cover, so Nicky must have been keen on the chances of either First Street or Theatre Glory – or both.
Henderson has won this twice with mares in recent years, and I prefer Theatre Glory of his pair. Some will assume she is the neglected of the pair given she’s ridden by a conditional claiming 7lb, but I see it differently.
Nathan Brennan rode her well when winning at Kelso in the spring and is back on having been unable to claim at Cheltenham in listed company.
She looks well weighted, remains open to improvement, and will surely go close.
3:05 Coral Gold Cup Handicap Chase 3m 1f 214yds
I must admit that the first running of the Coral Gold Cup almost has be in no-bet territory, and the prospect of a non-runner makes the place terms unattractive with some of the firms as well.
The top of the handicap looks weak, and it’s tempting to go in again on Lord Accord, who has run with great credit on both starts this autumn. He should be in or around the places again, but I prefer to take a win-only swing on another old favourite.
Oscar Elite is a risky bet here given he’s had problems with breaking blood vessels, but he ran really well despite bleeding when third to Corach Rambler at Cheltenham in March, and is capable of winning with a repeat.
He looked like a run in the West Yorkshire Hurdle would bring him on (didn’t bleed according to the race report), and good ground will suit him now back chasing. He’s definitely one to catch early before his issues can catch him up, and I expect a bold show for a horse who could rate much higher with a clean bill of health.
3:40 Coral Get Closer To The Action Handicap Chase 2m 92y
Casa Tall is a rather hopeful choice to outrun his odds as he’s better than recent runs imply. He clearly needed the run on his return and was given a considerate ride in the circumstances, and Tom George’s last 10 runners have finished 1123232119, with the last one a 125/1 shot. Despite being out of the weights, he’s fairly treated on his best form which has come on good or dead ground.
2:10 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 46y
Constitution Hill can’t be opposed assuming the ground doesn’t dry out, and looks a class above his rivals with Epatante’s excellent runs outnumbered by lesser efforts on the book these days.
The fact that Constitution Hill is running here instead of in the Gerry Feilden suggests that Nicky Henderson was never confident about the chances of Epatante winning.
That logic may seem a bit of a leap, but if Epatante was burning up the gallops and trained to the minute, it would seem odd to oppose her with a stablemate who could easily have run elsewhere, especially when both are owned by different strong-willed individuals.
My conclusion is that there will be no fallings out because J.P. McManus is not expecting fireworks from his mare. Call it a hunch.
If that’s the case, then it makes sense to include Not So Sleepy as the one for the forecast, as he’s likely to have the run of things, followed first by Constitution Hill, with Epatante and Tommys Oscar held up.
Given his quirks, Nico de Boinville will be keen to give Not So Sleepy some rope, and that will encourage Johnny Burke to play a cat-and-mouse game in front. I don’t think he can beat the favourite who has a frightening finishing kick, but it will count against the others, and the forecast or exacta makes plenty of appeal. Backing the exacta directly with the Tote will get punters a 10% bonus on winnings, so that’s the recommendation, but some firms will guarantee returns based in early prices, which would be even better in all probability.
3:25 Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase 2m 7f 91yds
I’m not sure the ground will be soft enough for L’Homme Presse and, if that’s the case, then bottom-weight Into Overdrive can take advantage. The selection has improved away from testing ground over fences, and should stay this trip as long as the rain stays away.
Dublin Four 1:20 Newbury – 1pt win at 8/1 (general)
Walking On Air 1:55 Newbury – 3pts win at 7/2 (Ladbrokes, Coral, 3/1 general)
Theatre Glory 2:30 Newbury – 1pt win at 5/1 (general)
Oscar Elite 3:05 Newbury – 1pt win at 9/1 (Hills, 8/1 general)
Constitution Hill/Not So Sleepy 2:30 Newcastle – 2pts exacta
Rory’s recommended bets last week included 2pts Boothill at 5/1