RACING expert Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) returns to share his best plays for Friday's action at Newbury.
Friday | 2:25 Newbury | ITV
The Ladbrokes Handicap Chase is a Class 2 event and looks a pretty decent race. Over just short of two-and-a-half miles it's attracted some proven Group 1 horses, along with some unexposed types, and I'm taking my chance on one at the bottom of the handicap.
Willoughby Court (2/1 Ladbrokes) is the favourite here and he could be a high-class chaser in the making. He won the Neptune Hurdle in 2017 and his promising novice chase career ended in January where he was last seen coming third. I believe he is the best horse in the race but under this weight, on ground perhaps quicker than ideal on his seasonal reappearance, he can be opposed.
Touch Kick (6/1 Unibet) sneaks in to this off a feather weight but I see huge positives to him here. He's two from four over fences and is improving with each start. His last start was off the back of a year’s absence and providing he doesn't bounce he can improve beyond his current mark and I feel he is a fair price in this handicap.
Friday | 3:00 Newbury | ITV
The Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle is run over slightly more than three miles and sees some top staying hurdlers go head-to-head early in the season. It's a high-class affair and I'm backing an old favourite to come good here.
Wholestone (9/4 Ladbrokes) returned this season with a fine win at Aintree and he isn't far off being one of the top staying hurdlers in the country. He's a remarkably consistent sort but his one blip last season was in this race last year. That makes me worry about the tracks suitability and he's opposable here.
UknowhatImeanharry (7/2 William Hill) is a two-time winner of this race and one of the best staying hurdlers of recent years. He returned in the same race as Wholestone where he fished strongly and will relish the extra distance here. In my opinion, this may be his ‘Stayers Hurdle’ and I think connections will target this race as his most likely big win.
2:25 Newbury – Touch Kick (6/1 Unibet)
3:00 Newbury – UknowhatImeanharry (7/2 William Hill)