We have a huge weekend of racing ahead. There’s a final chance to see some exceptional flat horses at Doncaster with the Vertum Futurity Trophy the highlight on a busy day. We also have action at Cheltenham, Galway, Newbury, Leopardstown, Kelso and Chelmsford
Minella Warrior (15.15)
Whilst March seems a long way off, the plotting and planning for the Pertemps final at The Festival will no doubt be well underway.
The first qualifier offers us a good race in its own right with 18 set to go to post.
Tobefair has been some story for his trainer Debra Hamer and makes some appeal, but the selection is going to be the locally trained Minella Warrior.
Kim Bailey has been in fine form in the last two weeks, operating at a 25% strike rate. This horse will hold a fitness edge on others, having had two novice chase runs at Southwell and Uttoxeter.
His last run over hurdles was a win at Wetherby over a three-mile trip. That came off a mark of 133 which he runs off again here today.
That was on softer ground, but the horse has been a winner on good. I think Kim Bailey can continue his good form and 16/1 represents great each way value.
This is a typically competitive Cheltenham handicap chase. Ballymalin is one I am really keen on, despite having never won at the track.
His record doesn’t tell the entire story having run with credit on a number of occasions, including a 7th in the Pertemps.
He is making a reappernce after a significant lay off. However, his record fresh tells me that it’s unlikely to be an issue. He has won at the trip and is versatile on the ground.
A mark of 125 is somewhat below his career best, and at 10yo he won’t be improving.
That said, I think Zac Baker can enjoy a good spin here on a horse that offers each way value.