The big race of the day takes place at Doncaster where a field of just seven will go to post for the BetBright Grimthorpe Handicap Chase.
This race was won in impressive style by The Last Samuri 12 months ago and Kim Bailey’s charge went on to run a cracker to finish runner-up to Rule The World in the Aintree Grand National.
Last time out, back at Aintree, the nine-year-old finished third, a length behind Vieux Lion Rouge. That appeared a big run at the time, and looks even better now given Vieux Lion Rouge has since followed up at Haydock to become the clear favourite for this year’s National.
Another big run can be expected today but the fact he is 12lb above last year’s winning mark makes him vulnerable.
Preference instead is for Definitly Red. It’s obviously a negative that he unseated his rider on his most recent run, at Haydock in January, but that error was an uncharacteristic one.
Prior to that, he was in superb form and his seven-length victory over Wakanda at Wetherby over Christmas was particularly impressive. The form of that race has a solid look given Blaklion, third that day, has since finished second to Vieux Lion Rouge in that Haydock race.
Looking Well also warrants a mention given how well he ran on this course when second to Ziga Boy in January. That, however, was his first start after eight months on the sidelines and there has to be a fear he’ll bounce.
Given that concern and the weight The Last Samuri must give away, Definitly Red looks the safest bet.
Elsewhere at Doncaster, the hope is the last shall be first with Lastbutnotleast fancied to do the business in the BetBright Mares’ Novice Hurdle.
Donald McCain’s charge made a winning seasonal reappearance when bolting in at Hexham and she was since delivered again, cruising to an effortless victory at Carlisle last month.
A tougher test in wait today but she looks a pretty smart mare and is fancied to complete the hat-trick.
The BetBright Casino Hurdle looks a tricky puzzle but a chance is taken on Arthurs Secret to end a frustrating run of near-misses since his move to Sandy Thomson. Since his switch, Arthurs Secret has run on four occasions, all at Musselburgh, finishing third once and second on three occasions.
His consistency deserves to be rewarded and the hope is that will happen today.
The BetBright Handicap Chase looks a poor race and San Benedeto, victorious on his most recent start, at Musselburgh last month, appeals as the most likely winner.
The highlight at Newbury is the Greatwood Gold Cup, a race Paul Nicholls has dominated in recent times. Seven of the last nine renewals have gone the way of Britain’s champion trainer and he can add to that impressive haul courtesy of Vibrato Valtat.
There are obvious negatives with this horse, not least that he hasn’t won since November 2015 and that he must shoulder top weight. However, five of his 10 defeats since last success have come in Grade One company and he isn’t a Grade One horse. Today’s task is significantly easier. The weight concern is a bigger worry but one that is slightly offset by the fact he will be ridden by 5lb claimer Stan Sheppard. Of further interest is the change of headgear with blinkers replacing the cheekpieces. If that switch can work the oracle Vibrato Valtat has the ability to outclass his rivals.
Vic De Touzaine looks the biggest threat to the selection. He has only been seen once this season but that was a decent effort as he went down to a two-length defeat at Wincanton last month. That looks good form as he finished 11 lengths clear of Pilgrims Bay, winner of last Saturday’s BetBright Chase at Kempton. A bold showing looks certain.
The Betway Supporting Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Chase can go the way of Harry Topper. He was pulled up in the Welsh National in what was his first run for 22 months but showed far more when plugging on gamely to finish fourth at Exeter last month.
That was encouraging, as is his Newbury record. He’s two from three at today’s venue and it is worth recalling that he hammered Al Ferof, a horse placed three times in the King George, by a whopping 25 lengths in the 2014 Denman Chase.
Harry Topper is obviously not as good as that now but he should still have sufficient class to go very close today.
Bloody Mary is fancied to justify probable favouritism in the Supporting Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
She hasn’t been seen since finishing third to Limini in the Cheltenham Festival last year. She has three handicap entries for this year’s festival and she’ll probably have to win today to get in so you’d have to assume Nicky Henderson will have her pretty straight for today’s race.
: Harry Topper
: San Benedeto