The two jumps meetings on Friday take place at Newbury and Doncaster. There are two runners from each in our editor’s 5,791/1 Lucky 15 top tips.
Elham Valley (1.45 Newbury)
While Fergal O’Brien is enjoying more prominence as a trainer than ever this season, ELHAM VALLEY is a horse who has not kicked on as hoped so far.
He is still only a five-year-old and when he was third at Warwick last month, it was his best effort since finishing third at last season’s Cheltenham Festival. That came in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap, which is not always the most reliable race, but he was doing so off a mark of 124.
That day, he finished ahead of the likes of Riviere D’etel and Nassalam, so the strength of the race cannot be cast into too much doubt. Moreover, his inability to find his feet this season has ensured he will now be running off a mark of 112.
Moving up in trip may well be a positive for him and there can be confidence that he will soon make the most of dropping in grade.
Royal Village (2.00 Doncaster)
This Veterans’ race precedes a stronger race of the type at Newbury on Saturday and as such it feels worth chancing one of the younger members.
Ten-year-olds regularly perform above market expectations in such races and ROYAL VILLAGE may well be able to overcome a layoff to compete here. Micky Hammond’s charge has been off since September, but he will now be running off a career low chase mark.
He was a very fortuitous winner off a mark of 130 at Market Rasen last July, but he would have been a close enough second but for a late fall ahead of him. He is 5lb lower than that now and taking on exclusively older horses here.
Freshness has never been an issue for him and good-to-soft ground should be no problem for all that he has raced exclusively on good in the last two years. Emma Smith-Chaston taking off 6lb could well help his chances even further.
Who Dares Wins (4.05 Newbury)
Another ten-year-old, albeit running against younger horses, WHO DARES WINS was kept almost exclusively to the flat last season.
However, he has resumed racing over hurdles this season. He had been rated in the high 140s prior to his National Hunt holiday and has dropped a further 6lb since his return. That is despite a far better run when staying on for third last time.
He definitely has the stamina for this trip and he is far from having lost all of his ability. Soft ground used to ask him a question, but it may well boost his chances with his advancing years.
Nextdoortoalice (4.15 Doncaster)
The market for this mares’ novices’ hurdle is swaye strongly in favour of two-time winner Corey’s Cottage.
However, she has won two straightforward races so far and on official ratings, she is 1lb below NEXTDOORTOALICE and has to concede that rival 5lb here.
Alex Hales’ six-year-old won on her hurdles debut over course and distance back in November. Since then, she only narrowly failed to give 7lb to the useful Holly Hartingo, while her conqueror last time, Theatre Glory, may well be a very useful mare for Nicky Henderson.
Returning to the venue at which she won at the start of the season is a big plus for her and this looks extremely winnable on all known form this season.