Paul Nicholls holds key to feature race at Doncaster
With the Cheltenham Festival looming large, Paul Nicholls has his string in suitably good form and can strike in the feature race at Doncaster on Saturday, the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase, with MON PARRAIN.
The French import, who will sport a first-time tongue tie, has something to prove at present, having been pulled up on his return at Wetherby in November. However, that was his first run for more than 18 months and he travelled well for a long way in that race, suggesting that his ability remains intact.
Mon Parrain is only an eight-year-old and has been given a real chance by the handicapper – he’s now 8lb lower compared to when third in a Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham in December 2011 – plus the forecast good ground on Town Moor will be ideal.
Nicholls boasts a 29 per cent strike rate over fences at Doncaster in recent seasons, and it’s interesting to note that he has entered Mon Parrain in a couple of valuable handicaps at the Festival, which strongly suggests that the Trempolino gelding is showing up well on the gallops at Ditcheat.
The selection’s stablemate Harry The Viking is also on a handy mark, but he would ideally prefer a stiffer test, so Monbeg Dude and Court By Surprise could emerge as the main dangers, particularly the latter who still has potential as a chaser.
Majala looks magic at Newbury
The Channel 4 cameras will also be at Newbury on Saturday, and the pick of the four televised races from the Berkshire track is the StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase.
For a race of its value, the turnout is underwhelming – just eight runners are set to go to post – but it’s a competitive affair nevertheless, and MAJALA is worth supporting in the hope that he returns to form.
Tom George’s charge chased home Champion Chase favourite Sire de Grugy on his reappearance at Chepstow in October and, though he has proved disappointing in his last two starts, he’s now 8lb below that mark. He will relish the testing conditions at Newbury.
Paul Nicholls fields Rebel Rebellion and Ulck du Lin, but Nadiya de la Vega is feared most. She hasn’t fired in three runs so far this term, but if the first-time visor sparks a revival she will be a real danger off her present mark.
Pigeon can swoop in veterans’ chase
Earlier on the card at Newbury there is a competitive-looking veterans’ chase. Top-weight Carruthers ran a blinder on his return at Warwick in January and has to be respected, but there are some potentially very well-handicapped rivals in opposition.
Burton Port and Tullamore Dew both fall into that category, especially the former, but it could be worth chancing PIGEON ISLAND who isn’t one to set your watch by, but if he manages to reproduce something akin to the form of his few efforts this season he will surely go very close.
Horse Racing Tips:
3.30 Mon Parrain
2.40 Pigeon Island