The Showcase Day One

The Return of the Weekend Sweep

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After a summer break the Weekend Sweep returns this Friday as the season starts to develop.

Tomorrow sees a plethora of top draw National Hunt action featuring  the 2014 running of the Old Roan Chase at Aintree and the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow.

14:00 Aintree, Betfred Tv Handicap Hurdle (Class 2)  
This looks like a nice starting point for all nine runners. They are all returning from a break so a lot will depend on fitness.

Eagle Rock has had busy campaign on the flat over staying trips. I would expect this trip and the company to be too tough for him tomorrow.

I think it is fair to say that Donald McCain, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have yet to start firing this term. Nicholls has admitted he has it found difficult to get his string fit so far this season. Backing the Fred Winter runner up Katgary who will undoubtedly be a useful horse in time is therefore a slight risk. I believe he has more scope for improvement than Hawk High who came out on top at Cheltenham but whether this will happen tomorrow remains to be seen.

Red Merlin is by far the oldest horse in the line up but is lightly raced in recent times. I would however expect a few of these to be too good for him tomorrow. Cool Macavity lost his way at the end of last season and needs to bounce back, this race may prove too much for him also.

Garde La Victoire interests me the most tomorrow. He had a busy campaign last year and always ran with credit against some top horses such as Ballyalton and Regal Encore. The form book does not lie and that is why he is top weight tomorrow on handicap debut.

Handazan is interesting on his old hurdles form. The chasing plan has been quickly aborted after a dismal effort at Uttoxeter in May. His trainer is in fine form and he may be more forward than some of his rivals here. Wadswick Court like many of Charlie Longsdon’s horses cannot be dismissed at the moment and he is likely to be forward in his preparations.

Broughton is a talented ex flat horse but like many others his trainer sends out may struggle now faced with competitive handicaps.

VERDICT
GARDE LA VICTOIRE faces some quality opposition below him in the handicap but tomorrow could see the beginning of a fruitful season for this horse. Handazan can outrun his price.

15:00 Aintree, Betfred Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase (Grade 2 Limited Handicap) (Class 1)
I will point you in the direction of Will Tame’s Old Roan Chase preview here as I have to agree on his conclusion. Uxizandre did exceptionally well in his first season over fences last term and can progress into a top class chaser. Module ran well fresh last season and this trip is perfect for him. I expect both horses to be ultra competitive tomorrow.

15:35 Chepstow, totepool Persian War Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1)
Son Du Berlais could prove a tough nut to crack tomorrow. You could not fail to be impressed with the way cruised round on the bridle at Newton Abbot on his British debut. That was on good ground but tomorrow’s soft ground should prove no worries as he is French bred. His status as a novice runs out next month so this looks an ideal opportunity to showcase what a talent he could be against some unexposed horses.

Vicente did exceptionally well to win at Cheltenham last week. Firstly his trainer is struggling at present and secondly he pulled quite hard during the race. He may have been booked for second had Present View not clattered the final hurdle but nonetheless it was most encouraging.

Blaklion was my selection for the race Vicente won last week but he was disappointingly withdrawn down at the start. Vicente now has a run under his belt so he may have caught up in the fitness department. Ability wise Blaklion should be competitive tomorrow but this could be a stronger race than the race he would have ran in at Cheltenham.

The Pirate’s Queen is interesting receiving weight from the other runners. From the end of November last season she ran solely at Listed level and was not disgraced in three of her four runs. She has more experience than the majority of these and she could be a major each way player with her a trainer bang in form.

Relentless Dreamer hacked up on his hurdling debut over course and distance two weeks ago and is totally unexposed. This is a big step up but he could be anything.

VERDICT
SON DU BERLAIS has arrived on these shores with a lofty reputation and can maintain that with victory tomorrow. He takes on a host of unexposed sorts but can show that he could be top class with a win. The Pirate’s Queen can run her usual gallant race.

I am most looking forward to watching how the Novices’ Chase pans out in the 14:25 at Chepstow tomorrow. I do not have an opinion on who will be victorious but it does look to be between Mosspark for Emma Lavelle and Sausalito Sunrise for Philip Hobbs. Both horses ran in the Albert Bartlett at the festival last season.

The 16:10 Handicap Hurdle is an absolute treat for National Hunt fans at Chepstow tomorrow. This is ultra competitive stuff and again I do not have an opinion on who will win. I do hope that Regal Encore can fulfill all of his promise this season. I have a lot of time for  his trainer Anthony Honeyball and he deserves a superstar in his yard.

I find it interesting that A P McCoy is returning from his short injury to only ride Son Du Berlais and Regal Encore tomorrow. I am sure other rides would have been offered to him but the fact he is only riding these two for his boss could mean both are ready to run big races.

Horse Racing fan of both codes. Can be found in the Grandstand or queuing for the bar at most Cheltenham meetings. Love the festival and what it brings to my home town. Enjoy previewing races and hopefully finding some winners! Can be found on Twitter discussing racing and grumbling about Sunderland AFC. @RoyNicol.

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