JUMP racing is back! We got Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) to give us his best bets from Saturday's Channel 4 racing.
14:00 Wetherby | Channel 4
The Bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle is a Grade 2 over three miles and it's attracted a strong if not quite top class field. It looks a relatively tight field with the majority of the line up having claims to take this.
The Druids Nephew was a really progressive chaser last season where he was an impressive winner at the Cheltenham Festival before being sent off second favourite for the Grand National where he fell when he still had a chance. He stays well and will hopefully have another good season but he will improve for this race and he's not for me.
Grumeti was on the brink of being a top class hurdler three years ago and after a disappointing attempt at chasing looked like he was going to become something of a has-been. However last time out rather out of the blue he won the Cesarewitch and if he converts that improvement to his hurdle form then he could be a star in the staying hurdle division. However he has looked a shadow of himself over obstacles so I'll just be watching him here.
I'm going to take a chance on one of my old favourites here in the form of Rock on Ruby. He has a solid record fresh and as a horse who doesn't race often it's likely connections will have him cherry ripe for this. He is yet to win over three miles he stayed two miles five last season and I believe he will get three miles. He is a Group 1 hurdler and the same can't be said for his rivals. The simple fact is that if he stays three miles he wins this, and at 4/1 it's worth the gamble.
14:10 Down Royal | Channel 4
What a little race this is. A Grade 2 over two miles four furlongs and it may have only attracted a field of eight but three of them have the potential to be top class and this will be an informative race.
Shanahans Turn won the Galway Plate in really impressive style over the summer and after a frustrating season looked like he was going to start living up to his potential. However he ran flat on his next start (in a Gowran Grade 2) and he isn't a horse I can trust, especially against two seriously good rivals.
Clarcam finished well ahead of Shanahans Turn on his seasonal debut and can be expected to improve further for his reappearance. He is a good young horse (the only horse to have beaten Vatour since joining Willie Mullins) but I feel he falls just short of the top level. Though he comes in to this with race fitness on his side I feel he is up against a better horse in this.
Ptit Zig from the Paul Nichols yard and is a horse I plan to follow this season. A winner of his first four starts over fences he lost his unbeaten record when falling in the Betfair Chase at Ascot. He was a novice lining up against a top field yet was sent off favourite which shows the reputation he has. He was next seen at Cheltenham when well beaten by Vatour, but he didn't look himself that day and it's possible the race came too soon after his fall.
He's won on his seasonal debut for the past two seasons and clearly goes well fresh. Paul Nichols has a fantastic record in this race and this is clearly his early season target. I firmly believe he will prove to be vastly superior to anything else in this race over the course of the season. I make him my bet of the day.
14:50 Ascot | Channel 4
The William Hill Handicap Hurdle over just shy of two miles looks one of the most intriguing races of the day with some established horses taking on young up and coming hurdlers.
Cloonacool is very much a hurdler on the up and comes here in the form of his life. He ran behind some decent novice hurdlers last season without setting the world on fire but took his form to a new level when winning a Listed race at Market Rasen on his seasonal debut. He won in good style there and comes here fully fit. Having said that this represents a step up in class and I'm against him in this.
Nabuco comes here from the in-form John Ferguson yard and could be anything. After coming second on his hurdling debut at Aintree he won two low grade novice events effortlessly and comes in to this as an unexposed hurdler with bags of potential. He was rated over 100 on the flat and contested Group races in France so it's highly likely he will take a few more steps up the National Hunt ladder in time but he's still inexperienced over obstacles so I'm taking him on too.
The one I like is last year's winner Sign of a Victory from the Nicky Henderson stable. Last season he put up an almost breath taking performance in this barely breaking sweat to destroy a decent field but his season went downhill after that. He will have been aimed at this race again and with everything in his favour he is primed to run a massive race. Obviously he is carrying more weight this season but if he is in anything like the same form as he was 365 days ago then he will take some stopping here.
15:05 Wetherby | Channel 4
The Charlie Hall sees the return of some National Hunt superstars and though only seven line up it's a super little race.
Many Clouds who won the Hennessey and the Grand National last season looks like a horse still on the up and it will be interesting to see what he achieves this season. He looks good enough to win this under his penalty, but I'm not sure he'll be 100% for this and feel he has bigger targets later in the season.
Menorah won this race last season and is a real stalwart of the chasing scene. I like him a lot and expect him to run a big race, but the weights of the race this season is going to make it difficult for him to repeat last year's success and I feel he will need to wait for later in the season to get his head in front.
The two I like here are Cue Card and Dynaste. Both are coming back from injuries and neither managed to make the Cheltenham Festival last season where they are both previous winners of the Ryanair Chase. Both are nine years old now and possibly past their prime but I think this race will see them at their best.
The conditions of this race mean they both receive 6-10 lbs from their main rivals and that's a huge concession to top class rivals. Dynaste should be fit from his reappearance in France and Cue Card has reportedly been pleasing connections at home. I can see the two of them fighting out the finish here and I'm having a small reverse forecast on them filling the first two places.
14:00 Wetherby – Rock On Ruby to win (4/1 Paddy Power)
14:10 Down Royal – Ptit Zig to win (5/4 Ladbrokes)
14:50 Ascot – Sign Of A Victory to win (4/1 Bet365)
15:05 Wetherby – Dynaste/Cue Card Reverse Forecast
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