Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 4°C Monday 19 April 2021

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

A bumper weekend of Grade racing starts at Newbury this afternoon. Declan Smyth studies the form to pick us a winner.

Can Houblon Des Obeaux get the job done today?
Can Houblon Des Obeaux get the job done today?
Image: David Davies/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Worcester Novice Chase (Grade 2)

TODAY SIGNALS THE start of a very busy period for horse racing fans with 24 graded races packed in between now and Christmas — and then another 14 to come during Christmas week.

Newbury starts off a great weekend racing with the Grade 2 Worcester Novice Chase over three miles (2.05pm). With some rain still forecast, this is bound to be a test on the soft ground. Six runners have been declared and it really is a trappy affair for punters.

Benefficient makes the trip from Ireland and will be ridden by AP McCoy. Not the most consistent early on in his career, he really came to notice last February in the Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle at Leopardstown where he beat a good field over 2m2f.

He was then beaten by large margins at both Cheltenham and Punchestown, and was runner up to a horse rated well below him over hurdles when he reappeared over fences on heavy ground at Listowel in September. From there, he went to Down Royal where he won a novice chase from which the second and third horses went on to win next time out.

Hadrian’s Approach represents the all-powerful Nicky Henderson yard. He followed up his point-to-point win with victory in a maiden hurdle at Ascot before then falling in a novice hurdle at the same track last January. He reappeared over fences in November at Ascot, winning a novice chase narrowly following some sticky jumping. This is a big step up for him though and he may be found out by some more experienced horses.

Highland Lodge was a decent hurdler and has claims following a winning debut over fences earlier in the month; the same can be said for Harry Topper.

Preference is for the Venetia Williams-trained HOUBLON DES OBEAUX. Although he didn’t show the greatest form over hurdles, he was always going to be a better chaser according to Williams who regards him as one of the best novices she has had in a while.

He won on his debut over the larger obstacles, winning by an easy-looking 11 lengths. He followed that up by winning a Grade 2 race at Wincanton earlier in the month where he beat the well-regarded Poungach by over four lengths.

The latter went on to frank that form last week at Haydock, so Houblon Des Obeaux sets the standard here and might just have the edge over the rest.

Reproduced with permission from >>

Follow @whiteflagman on Twitter >>

About the author:

Declan Smyth

Read next: