Warwick could be a real slog on Saturday and Willie Mullins sends over Black Hercules. The Irish champion trainer had a couple of entries in this race before the final declarations on Friday so whatever stood its ground was always going to warrant respect and Mullins has had four winners from six at this track when they’ve come over from Ireland.
Paul Nicholls’ Silsol represents the UK champion trainer and although the stable hasn’t been firing as you would expect, they did have a couple of winners early in the week and they may have turned the corner.
It looks a match between the two of them.
In the 2.05pm Handicap Chase at Wetherby Tom George’s SIR VALENTINO has improved 21lbs after running up a three-timer earlier in the season. Highly tried when fifth behind Sprinter Sacre last time – he looks the one to beat. Of the rest Upsilon Bleu can’t be ruled out as he’s slipping back down the handicap to a nice mark.
My first ride of the day is on Kingscourt Native for Colin Tizzard. His jumping has let him down this year and he’s yet to complete but had some fair form last season winning a couple of novice chases.
He’s back over hurdles and has to prove himself against Nigel Twiston Davies Arctic Gold who is on a roll winning three on the bounce and Nicky Richards’ Isaactown Lad from a table in form.
Volcanic won last time out for Donald McCain who has emerged from a quiet patch but if I had to nail it I’d go for ARCTIC GOLD to keep in the winning vein.
Micky Hammond’s Maxie T looks the best of his two runners in a tricky-looking handicap at 2.40pm at Wetherby.
Dan Skelton’s MASTER JAKE won well at Lingfield last time and set the standard. It would be worth watching the market for Alan Swinback’s Divine Port who wouldn’t be out of it getting weight from these rivals.
I ride Final Nudge in the 2.25 at Warwick and there’s a few in this who wouldn’t look out of place in the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in two-months time.
Hit the Frame
He was a close second to YouknowwhatImeanHarry at Cheltenham over 3m so should cope with the extra couple furlongs here and has a good chance of hitting the frame – but there may be a couple of more classier types in this.
The Mullins yard have another couple on a reconnaissance mission in Open Eagle who was second to Altior at Kempton over Christmas and the classy-looking Thomas Hobson.
But there was plenty of chat for Dan Skelton’s BORN SURVIVOR who has won a point-to-point and also won his maiden hurdle over course and distance here last time and could be anything.
Loose Chips ran well at Ascot on his second-last start but was disappointing last time. I think he prefers going right-handed which is going to be a disadvantage here over 3m 5f at Warwick. It’s very open.
Venetia Williams’ RIGADIN DE BEAUCHENE (3.55pm) fits the bill as a horse who just gallops all day long. He mightn’t be the brightest but he won last time out at Haydock and won this race in 2013. Alan King is well represented with Doncaster winner Sego Success and Midnight Prayer who missed the Welsh National because he was coughing.
Alan King said that could have been a blessing in disguise as the ground was desperate that day and he doesn’t really handle it but although testing it shouldn’t be as bad as Chepstow that’s for sure.