Machine: Ruby Walsh on board Big Buck's David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Runners and Riders

Mark your Card: your best bets for today’s Grade racing

It’s that time of the year again — surely nothing can stop Big Buck’s? Declan Smyth looks at today’s Grade races in Newcastle and Newbury.

THE WEATHER IS playing havoc with racing at the moment. Abandoned meetings, non-runners due to going and late changes in going are making life difficult for everyone involved in the industry.

Just four runners are left standing for the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, which looked like being a competitive renewal earlier in the week, while Big Buck’s has scared most of the opposition away in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury.

Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Grade 1)

Newcastle’s weather forecast were a bit more upbeat as the day went on yesterday and if all goes well, the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle over 2m will go to post at 2.20pm.

Cinders and Ashes hasn’t been seen since winning the Supreme Novices at Cheltenham where he had one of today’s opponents, Trifolium, just under two lengths back in third. That was his fourth win on the trot over hurdles; the wins came on soft, heavy and good ground so conditions today shouldn’t be a problem. There’s no doubting trainer Donald McCain’s belief that he is a high-class horse who handles the soft, although is ideally suited by better ground.

Countrywide Flame is the current Triumph Hurdle champion. Four-year-olds don’t have a great record in the race, but he will be fit following two efforts on the flat. He won a handicap at Chester in September and then carried a 4lb penalty to the Cesarewitch over 1m6f at Newmarket in October where he was just beaten into second, receiving 19lb from the winner. He’s a tough battler but Cinders and Ashes might be a shade better over the two miles.

Trifolium ran a shocking race on his seasonal reappearance at Punchestown when 32 lengths second to Miley Shah. It doesn’t inspire confidence and Davy Russell stays at home giving the mount to Andrew Lynch. Davy has got it wrong a few times as those who the Jump Boys documentary shown on TG4 this week will have seen.

The field is made up by Bothy who will need a disaster to befall the others to win. It’s all over to CINDERS AND ASHES to confirm his trainer’s high opinion.

Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2)

Down at Newbury, only four runners go to post for the Long Distance Hurdle. Since unseating Sam Thomas in the Hennessy on the same card here four years ago, Big Buck’s hasn’t looked back, winning 17 races on the bounce.

The son of the late great French sire Cadoudal (also the sire of Long Run) is rising 10 years of age and at some stage he is going to get beaten or show connections that he’s had enough — but until that time comes it would be foolish to bet against him.

With nothing in the race that usually makes the pace, apart from stable mate Five Dream, expect another masterclass from Ruby Walsh. BIG BUCK’S for number 18 on the trot.

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