Dublin: 16°C Friday 17 September 2021

Best bets on a busy day

Mark Hobbs previews the weekend racing.

WITH THE CHELTENHAM Festival now only a mere four weeks away, understandably the racing public’s imagination is focused on the Cotswolds. Today is one of the final trial days for the festival, and with the feast on offer there is sure to be much food for thought by racing’s end.

Among those looking to highlight their credentials for championship races is Duinguib at Gowran, Pride of Dulcote at Ascot, Mille Chief and Silviniaco Conti at Wincanton, and Court in Motion at Haydock.  But having said that, today can be enjoyed on its own merits with plenty of action to choose from.

Dunguib Out to Prove Point

Dunguib’s first racecourse appearance since finishing down the field in Punchestown’s Champion Hurdle last term will attract most interest on these shores. His presence has frightened off the competition, with only two opponents willing to oppose.

While Philip Fenton’s stable star has something to prove following his losses at the end of last season, he undoubtedly possesses a great deal of ability. However, he is unlikely to gain an easy victory following his absence, and has suffered an interrupted preparation.

It’s difficult to guess how the race will unfold, and certainly it will be impossible to garner too much knowledge from the result given the strange race conditions. Dunguib’s opponents should warrant respect, and the conditions may prove to benefit Luska Lad as much as the favourite. Given the form of Jessica Harrington’s team it would also be unwise to write-off the chances of her likely improver Gimli’s Rock.

Theatre to Provide Real Show

The highlight of Ascot’s card is the Grade One Betfair Chase, won last year by the hugely popular Monet’s Garden for a second time. There are no superstars here this time around, but two young pretenders to the staying throne in the form of Pride of Dulcote and Riverside Theatre take their places. The former, due to be ridden by young Nick Scholfield, will be well-backed as all Paul Nicholls’ inmates are in these events.

The form of his narrow victory over Punchestown last time out has not stood up to much scrutiny, and while he has the scope to improve it’s not a definite that the step back to just over two and a half miles will suit the son of Kadalko. Riverside Theatre on the other hand may find the race conditions playing directly to his strengths. Nicky Henderson’s charge was a fine second to Long Run in the King George last month, and relishes going right-handed. Finishing a staying-on fifth in the Arkle over two miles last term, today’s trip should suit perfectly.

Later in the card, Songe is a live outsider in the Betfair Mobile Handicap Hurdle. Having proved frustrating for a year or two, he came back into form over the larger obstacles in the autumn and with his stable in outstanding form he can take advantage of his drop in the weights back over hurdles.

The National Trail

The most valuable, and fascinating, race on Haydock’s card is the Totesport.com Grand National Trial. Over three and a half miles on heaving going, one thing is for certain – huge emphasis will be placed on stamina. Last year’s victor Silver By Nature would have serious claims if back to form, but his weight must be of some concern. Similarly, Carruthers is one of the class horses of the race, but a slog like this under a big burden could prove too much to handle. Nicto de Beauchene is a brother to the 2008 winner Miko de Beauchene, and has been on an upward curve since switching stables.

Major Malarkey is relatively unexposed and could run a big race off an attractive racing weight for the Twiston-Davies team – one that has great success in these staying events.

The Verdict

It’s a very busy day of racing and it may feel difficult to know where to start. Of the short price favourites Dunguib looks a little vulnerable, and could be worth laying at odds of about 8/11.

Riverside Theatre looks to be a solid favourite at 7/4, and given his consistently impressive performances this year and with conditions to suit he rates a good bet. Of the long shots, Songe could well run into a place at a generous 20/1.

The Grand National trial should be a gruelling test of stamina and fortitude, and a small stake split between Nicto de Beauchene and Major Malarkey could be the answer.

But whatever you do today, please hold on to some funds for Cheltenham. It’s only around the corner you know.

About the author:

Mark Hobbs

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