HENRY DE BROMHEAD has carried all before him in the last 12 months — and his Eklat De Rire has leading claims of continuing his run in the big races when he contests the big trophy race off at (3.00) at Newbury this afternoon.
And indeed if he is to develop into a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup hope then the youngster will need to win this most pertinent of trials off a mark of 154 accompanied by the seemingly incomparable Rachael Blackmore.
At around the 5/1 mark he could still look a fair price for this famous three-and-a-quarter mile handicap chase at around 3.15. However, there is plenty of value outside of the seven-year-old and his fellow Irish raider Ontheropes, the latter trained by the mighty Willie Mullins.
The pick in my eyes is probably CANELO who made a low-key comeback first time out at Bangor when weakening on the run for home before the second last and not given a hard time thereafter by Tom Cannon with this race in mind.
It is worth remembering that last season he also needed his opening run very badly, and then took a bold step forward on his second start when running away with a novice handicap chase at Aintree off a rating of 130.
Second to the very well handicapped Cap Du Nord at Newbury on his following start, just tapped for toe over a distance short of his best that day, he then returned to winning form when winning the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby from Snow Leopardess, the mare that beat him on his first start this term.
That last success was off 142 so the handicapper has given him a realistic chance here back at 145 in a race which is set to be run to suit.
Of his other rivals, I have the most respect for the Paul Nicholls- trained Enrilo and last year’s fourth The Hollow Ginge.
Dan Skelton suggested that the mare ELLE EST BELLE badly needed her seasonal debut over two miles here four weeks ago and having worked well since and come forward for that run, the five-year-old is expected to reverse that form with Nina The Terrier in the mares hurdle at 12.10.
Later on, I am looking forward to seeing the giant KAUTO THE KING step up in class in the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Handicap Chase at 1.15. His high cruising speed should be a huge asset in a race with lots of pace in it, and he may be able to put up a career best against Killer Clown and the Philip Hobbs-trained Kalooki.
The lightly raced, but far from straightforward LECALE’S ARTICLE (nap) looks well treated off a mark of 125 for Nicky Henderson in the two-and-a-half handicap hurdle over two-and-a-half miles at 1.50 and the Lambourn maestro should also land the feature event at Newcastle, the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle due off at 3.15 with EPATANTE.
Never at her best last year, she has reportedly had a problem sorted out and is back to her best in her home work. Brilliant in this race last year, I expect a straightforward success again 12 months on against the likes of the admirable Sceau Royal and four-year-old Monmiral.
The big chase at the Gosforth Park track is the Rehearsal at 2.05 with a healthy field of 13 set to go to post. THE FERRY MASTER has the advantage of a run under his belt, third at Musselburgh off 133 when lack of an outing told between the final two obstacles. This will only be his seventh chase start and in a competitive renewal the eight-year-old gets the nod over Spiritofthegames and course and distance winner Ayr Right.
There is a fair national hunt card at Doncaster and the best of the Town Moor picks is probably ECCO (nb) in the Handicap Hurdle at 2.18.
Several times last season the six-year-old seemed to flatter to deceive at the back end of his races and as such has been given the rudimentary wind operation by the Ditcheat handler.
A winner off 114 last season, HYDROPLANE looks a young horse to stay on the right side of this season and he can continue his rise up the hurdling ranks in the two-mile handicap hurdle at 1.43. A flattish track like Doncaster suits him well and he looks too good for both Gordon’s Jet and Rattle Owl at the weights.
Finally, under the lights at Wolverhampton, have a second look at JACKSTAR off top weight in lowly class six handicap over an extended seven furlongs at 7.00.
The five-year-old has dropped a full 20lbs in the weights to a mark of 60 in the last 12 months. However, his run two outings back over six furlongs at the Dunstall Lane track suggests he maintains more than a modicum of his old ability and this drop back in trip should be spot on for this grey gelding.
Elsewhere on the card, SOCIETY RED should also run well off top weight in the extended mile handicap off 77 at 7.30. He looks outstanding value here giving up a pound to Asdaa and 12lbs to the course and distance specialist Critical Thinking.