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WITH Doncaster’s final flat meeting of the year rained off, things are now top-heavy with National Hunt cards headed by Aintree and Wincanton.
And the last named offers the big betting race of the weekend in the form of the Badger Beers Handicap Chase due off at 3.35.
The weather is once again going to upset the apple cart here with rain expected throughout the day at the Somerset track and that could well play into the hands of the race fit BEAU DU BRIZAIS.
He ran well over the course and distance when placed last time out and should once again account for his old foe Sumkindofking, back in fourth spot. Any further rain certainly wouldn’t inconvenience his chance and he gets the vote over the likes of Present Man (seeking a hat-trick of victories in the race) and his stable mate Give Me A Copper. The last named is still thought to be well-handicapped by trainer Paul Nicholls, but has flattered to deceive in the past.
The main event of the day is the Elite Hurdle (3.00) and the youngster FUSIL RAFFLES is bidding to make his distant Champion Hurdle claim become a realistic thought for his connections.
Two from two in the UK after coming over from France, he raised his game to a completely different level at the back end of the 2018/19 season when landing the Grade One AES Champion four-year-old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
I fancy that the son of Saint des Saints could prove too strong in the closing stages for the year older Grand Sancy.
Other runners to have a second look at on the card could be KEEP MOVING (nb) in the two-and-a-half mile handicap chase at 1.15 and TALK OF FAME in the closing bumper at 4.10.
The first named looked an unlucky loser at Exeter first time out this season, while the latter has reportedly been training well at home and has solid claims from a stable that has started the season with a real rattle.
Over at Aintree, JOHNBB (nap) could well prove to be the value off bottom-weight in the opening novices limited handicap chase at 12.20.
The Tom Lacey-charge raced too keenly for his own good the last time we saw him at Sandown Park, but his shrewd trainer has given him plenty of time to mature and strengthen up and I think he is the value to make the most of the weight that he is set to receive from Follow the Bear and Present Value.
The big race at the Liverpool track is the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase at 2.05 and with several front-runners and pressers in the field this is sure to be a real test of stamina even over this intermediate distance.
Bigmatre has run well around here before, while Duke Street is a young horse on the up and although he will need a career best here he could still be well treated.
But the one I like best is the top-weight CEPAGE trained by the brilliant Venetia Williams. She is superb at producing a horse from a spell on the sidelines and this lightly raced seven-year-old has always been held in the highest regard hence he has been kept in training after 329 days on the sidelines.
This distance and the soft ground should be perfect for the seven-year-old and if he can come forward again following his cracking second to subsequent Ryanair Chase hero Frodon in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last year then he looks a massive player in this class before he probably reverts to graded company later on in the season.
The other horse that I will be supporting tomorow will come under the newly installed floodlights at Southwell.
BODACIOUS NAME had a really nice pipe-opener at Musselburgh last month after a break through the height of summer and that should have put him straight for a shot at the two mile handicap due off at 6.10.
He certainly looks nicely treated off a mark of just 66 here and he can claim the scalps of both course and distance winner Shine Baby Shine and Tigray.
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