‘Julio’ heads hot field

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Saturday’s exciting Skybet Chase Race Day is three days away with the first in a seven race card getting underway at 1.15pm.

The name on all the pundits lips at the moment is the precocious chaser Hold On Julio, who destroyed a competitive field in a handicap chase at Sandown on only his third start over fences. He is the sponsor’s 4-1 favourite for Saturday’s feature, the Skybet Chase at 2.50pm.

And trained by Alan King, Hold On Julio already heads the betting for the Festival Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in March, underlining the outstanding calibre of runners and riders that will be on show at Town Moor this weekend, as the eyes of millions of TV viewers focus on our famous track.

Hold On Julio will certainly be looking to reinforce his credentials as well, although this listed handicap, formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase, is no gimmie. At this stage 22 other contenders are in the mix and the bookies would happily throw a blanket over half a dozen of them.

Nicky Henderson’s possible Grand National hope Shakalakaboomboom, Emma Lavelle’s Qianshan Leader, Paul Nicholls’ AiteenThirtythree and Henrietta Knight’s Calgary Bay all look like dangerous company to keep, among others.

And in a highly competitive card, those seeking some value could even run the rule over another couple of Grand National candidates. Donald McCain’s Wymot is an interesting entry at 20-1 and former Scottish National winner, the eleven-year-old Andrew Parker trained Merigo, offers maximum value with the sponsors at 50-1.

Connections suggest that Hold On Julio is in good knick for this one and one of his big rivals, Nicholl’s AiteenThirtythree, will be on a recovery mission after disappointing as the favourite for the Hennessy Gold Cup on his last run in November.

It’s a tough ask but it looks like Hold On Julio could justify the hype, although watch out for the in-form Nicky Henderson yard and Shakalakaboomboom coming up on the rails.

All told across the seven races on the day there are 135 strong entries which include some of the outstanding talent currently on the National Hunt scene, with a spate of entries from a number of the country’s leading trainers.

And for those who appreciate a family connection, father and son team of Keith and James Reverly look set to be involved in five of the seven races, and will be hopeful of bringing home a decent prize.

For more information on Doncaster Racecourse or to buy tickets to the Skybet Chase or the Construction Index Racing Followed by Madness Live Music Concert in June, go to www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk or call 01302 304200.