“Betfair Super Saturday” meeting at Newbury on February 11.
Because I have a strong team heading for the meeting – as no doubt you will be reading about in the papers next Tuesday, as I host a press day here for Newbury racecourse and Betfair here on Monday morning.
But you may as well read about my Newbury team here first, so here goes.
At this stage, ante-post favourite Zarkandar (Daryl Jacob) and Brampour (Harry Derham) are my two definite runners in the Betfair Hurdle, Europe’s richest handicap hurdle. And Empire Levant could also join them.
What a Friend was a sick horse after Wetherby but he is in really good form at the moment and is my number one hope in the Betfair Denman Chase. He carried a 10lb penalty when a head second to Noland in the race last season, but doesn’t this time around. Hopefully, this will be a good stepping stone to the Gold Cup, in which he finished a fine fourth last season.
Paul Barber was obviously keen to have a runner in the Betfair Denman Chase, so we will enter Aiteen Thirtythree. But he will have to up his game after disappointing us again at Doncaster last week; let’s hope a small field, conditions race at his favoured Newbury is more to his liking. I have my suspicions that he may have a breathing problem after stopping so quickly on his last two starts, but I can’t do anything about it at this stage of the season, so I will run him in a tongue tie and cross noseband next time.
I run Hold Fast in the Betfair Super Saturday Chase (I have been told I can’t call it the Game Spirit any more), fitness permitting. This horse is very tricky to train as he has intermittent lameness and foot problems. But he is 100pc at the moment and he certainly deserves to take his chance after his impressive Sandown handicap win, albeit one off just 137. That was the same race that Master Minded won (off 145) before winning this in 2008 and then the Champion Chase.
Grands Crus could turn up for the 3m novice chase on the card, and I have two possible rivals for him in Join Together and Silviniaco Conti, though that pair have plenty of other options in the coming fortnight. I give Edgardo Sol his County Hurdle prep in the novice hurdle on the card, and aim to run a nice horse of Simon Munir’s, easy Hereford winner Vrai Vert, in the bumper.
Fingers crossed, they get the chance to run.
As Denman unfortunately can’t make it to Newbury to parade before the race named in his honour – we will give an update on him next week – I gather Betfair have lined up a super-sub in Prince Harry, at the course to represent the Walking With The Wounded charity, of which he is patron.
It is a great charity, and some of the lads will be here on Monday to do a photo-shoot with Denman, and advertise such a worthwhile cause. It’s a brilliant idea to give our incredibly brave servicemen and the charity some exposure, not only on Monday, but also on live terrestrial TV on Channel 4 next Saturday.
It is always sad when the likes of Denman and Master Minded pick up injuries, or indeed any horse, but let’s not lose perspective here.