I expect to see Stellar Notion (1.45) maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles for Tom George in the opening race at Doncaster today.
The selection won a Bumper at Bangor back in December before running out a comfortable winner over hurdles at Newcastle on heavy ground last month and, as a son of Presenting, should appreciate the forecast better ground.
If he is to take up an entry at the Cheltenham Festival next month he must go close this afternoon.
He is currently 33/1 for the Supreme at BetVictor (Non Runner Free Bet) and 40s for the Neptune (NRFB).
The Novices’ Chase is excellent with impressive C&D winner Victor Hewgo (2.20) taking on last year’s Cheltenham Festival winner Holywell in a fascinating event.
I have long considered Holywell a leading contender for one of the big Festival handicap chases later in the season and the weights for the handicaps are announced next Wednesday.
The handicapper has, hitherto, not given Holywell a mark so connections are obliged to run if they want to be considered for the Handicap Chase on the first day.
I just favour Victor Hewgo, however, who has looked a natural over the larger obstacles in both starts, although he would be receiving 6lbs from Nicky Henderson’s Top Of The Range if this were a handicap.
The juvenile hurdle is another quality contest with Alan King’s Ronaldinho of particular interest given he was well supported on his hurdles debut at a time when the yard was under a cloud.
I expect a different horse today but preference is for Pearl Castle (2.50) who looked an Aintree rather than Cheltenham contender when winning over C&D last month.
He is currently a 33/1 shot (NRFB) for the Supreme and 16/1 for the Triumph but if he were mine he would bypass the Festival for the Carbbie’s Grand National meeting as he looks all speed to me.
The booking of Davy Russell for Burton Port (3.25) would suggest the Irish jockey will be in the plate at Aintree in April in the big one and I expect to see a different horse now that the weights for the National were announced last week. Remember he will not get a penalty if he were successful this afternoon and let’s hope we see a revitalised Burton Port today.
The Bumper is nothing short of top class and sees the debut under rules of Some Buckle who was bought at the Cheltenham sales for £180,000 by Roger Brookhouse in November having won his sole point in Ireland.
He obviously could be anything but the runner up has been well beaten since and, with the Brian Ellison yard in such good form, preference is for Racing Europe (4.55) a £120,000 purchase who finished runner up at Musselburgh on debut and can go one better in a race that wouldn’t be out of place on a good Saturday card.
The mare Cool Friend (4.45) would prefer better ground but she is an old favourite and very nearly landed the Aintree Foxhunters’ at 33/1 last April when beaten a neck by 100/1 shot Tartan Snow.
That 2m 6f stretches her stamina and the Aintree race is sure to be her target again this spring but she can reward each way support at this 2m 4f trip for Oliver Greenall at Ludlow.
For all your racing odds check out BetVictor.com.