Friday’s race of the day – Who will come out on top in big Handicap Chase at Newbury?

Jon Vine takes a look through the runners set to contest the big Handicap Chase at Newbury and highlights his best bet.

The day before the Ladbrokes Trophy runners do battle over 26 furlongs, a strong field of chasers will lock horns in this lucrative two-and-a-half-mile handicap. As part of our Daily Tips, I’ve taken a look at each of the runners in Friday’s race of the day and highlighted the runners I’ll be backing.

Friday’s Race Of The Day at Newbury

Azzerti

Enjoyed a solid novice chasing campaign last season, winning twice and placing seventh in a classy renewal of the Brown Advisory Plate at Cheltenham. Returned to action over course-and-distance here at Newbury and secured a narrow victory under top-weight. Should be competitive on the back of a career-best performance and goes on any ground. Definitely player.

Eamon An Cnoic

Beat Capeland by almost four lengths back in February, before securing a fine fourth-place finish in the Brown Advisory Plate. Struggled on final two starts at Aintree and Punchestown in two-mile handicaps. Was fancied by many to run well in BetVictor Gold Cup, but unseated rider at just the second fence. This looks to be his best trip and the course at Newbury should suit. Another to be considered.

Gala Ball

Returned from two-year absence with an excellent second-place behind San Benedeto here in March. Built on that next time out, producing a career-best display to carry top-weight to victory over course-and-distance. Proved he had retained all of his ability on return to racing last season and clearly loves running here at Newbury. Better handicapped options available at longer prices though.

Glen Forsa

Progressed rapidly last season, rising from 114 right up to 150 in the space of four runs. Unseated rider in the Arkle at Cheltenham and jumping mistakes littered appearance in the Manifesto at Aintree, where he was pulled up well before the end. Has a point to prove after spring flops and only managed to win handicaps by two lengths off much lower marks last season. Not for me.

Go Long

Ran up to a level higher than his current rating throughout last season, winning once and placing third twice. Stepped up beyond two miles for the first time on reappearance at Wetherby and didn’t seem to stay, fading noticeably in the final two furlongs. Question marks surround his stamina, especially on soft ground.

Kalashnikov secures Grade One glory at Aintree last spring.

Kalashnikov

Bolted up in two novice races last autumn. Spent the rest of his season running in Graded races. Was impeded by a faller in the Arkle and rider was unseated. Bounced back with cracking performance to beat La Bague Au Roi in the Manifesto at Aintree. Huge drop in class after a strong second in Old Roan on his first start. Ground and trip certainly suits. The one to beat despite top-weight.

O O Seven

Ground out an impressive victory off 147 on reappearance at Doncaster last season. Three high-profile defeats meant his rating had dropped back to 147 in time for Punchestown. Went on secure an impressive victory in the lucrative Guinness Handicap Chase. Goes very well fresh, but career-high mark of 155 may be difficult to overcome.

Oldgrangewood

Has managed to finish third on all three of his most recent runs at Aintree, but failed to get within nine lengths of the winners. I backed him the last day, but ran in snatches and barely featured until the final furlong. Will need to sharpen up his jumping if he wants to get involved.

San Benedeto

Won the Maghull at Aintree in 2017. Then went 13 races without a victory, until that surprise victory over Gala Ball in the Greatwood Gold Cup over course-and-distance in March. Well beaten on all three starts since, including on his reappearance. Has only won once during the first half of the season before and could struggle again under this weight.

Spiritofthegames

Hacked up in a Listed race on first start over fences last October. Went on to place on Cheltenham Trials day and again at the Festival, finishing third in the Brown Advisory Plate. Carried short price of 8/1 into BetVictor Gold Cup but ran no sort of race, pulling up without ever getting involved. If able to recapture his form of last season, he could run well beyond his current odds. No reason to suggest he won’t.

The Bay Birch

Progressed nicely last season and carried that into the new campaign at Chepstow, carrying odds of 20/1 to victory. I thought she was a banker at Market Rasen the last day, but ran a shocking race. Maybe the ground was too soft and the trip too long that day. Performance was still really poor considering she was the odds-on favourite. Doesn’t look well handicapper either.

Wenyerreadyfreddie

Impressed with his bold jumping during the first half of novice campaign and stayed strong to beat Kildisart at Ascot in November. Was then found out a little behind De Rasher Counter here at Newbury and was pulled up again at Cheltenham in April. Both of those lengthy defeats came off this mark and soft ground is unlikely to suit.

Spiritofthegames (right) finishing a close third behind Kildisart at Cheltenham last season.

Verdict

Kalashnikov could simply be far too classy for his rivals here at Newbury and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the favourite hack up. However, considering how open the betting is behind Kalashnikov and the fact there are three places available, I fancy an each-way punt and the one who’s significantly overpriced is SPIRITOFTHEGAMES.

Dan Skelton could find no excuses as to why his gelding ran so poorly in the BetVictor Gold Cup. The fact he’s turned out so quickly suggests he’s not overly concerned about a repeat showing and, although Harry Skelton has chosen to partner Oldgrangewood instead, he’s certainly the Skelton’s best chance of victory in this race.

If Spiritofthegames can return to the sort of form he produced as a novice last season, then 16/1 could look massive come the end of the race.