Three courses feature in ITV Racing’s coverage this Saturday. With five races from Kelso the feature, Newbury and Doncaster will also have five broadcast between them and Racing Tips’ expert editor has picked out a selection in each.
Kauto Riko (1.15 Newbury)
Aso remains the class act in the field, but his last two starts have suggested he may be slightly on the wane.
Just below him in the weights is KAUTO RIKO and the 11-year-old looks like he may retain more of his full ability. He has been Tom Gretton’s flagbearer for a number of seasons now and a Veterans’ Chase prize is well within his range.
A lingering doubt is that his career is littered with inconsistency, but at his best, he came within a length of causing a 100/1 shock in the 2019 edition of the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. He has also run two very good races this season, when second to Two For Gold at Doncaster, form which received a massive boost in the Ascot Chase recently, and fourth to Chantry House last time.
He was all over the place at the back of the field in the latter, but still ran on stoutly to be beaten only 11½ lengths. For all the world it seemed like he would be tailed off much further and on that bare form, he could still be thrown in off a mark of 139.
Sholokjack (1.32 Kelso)
This looks a tremendous edition of this race, which may largely be down to last year’s winner My Drogo developing into a top notch horse since.
All nine runners have their merits and of the eight with ratings, there is only 7lb between them if adjusted for North Lodge’s 5lb Grade 2 penalty for his victory at Cheltenham. Only Donny Boy is yet to earn a mark, but on his sixth to Jonbon last time, he’d likely be within a similar bracket.
However, the Skeltons may have a great chance of backing up last year’s success with SHOLOKJACK who has displayed considerable promise on his two starts this season. He found precious little off the bridle at Leicester having cruised to the lead on debut, but barely had to be extended at Wetherby under a penalty next time out.
He may not be a horse who produces much when in front, but if he can be smuggled into the race, he could well be running all over his rivals entering the closing stages.
Amoola Gold (1.50 Newbury)
Hindsight may well show that AMOOLA GOLD could hardly have faced less winnable tasks the last twice.
More obviously, Dan Skelton’s nine-year-old had no chance up against Shishkin and Energumene in the Clarence House Chase, but he was third at Warwick three weeks ago to another new Cheltenham favourite in Celebre D’Allen. That horse is the new market leader for the Paddy Power Plate.
Nevertheless, Amoola Gold travelled well up against that progressive horse last time and was dropped 2lb despite finishing a very credible third. He was slow at his last two fences that day to boot.
He should still have more to offer over 2m4f and his mark of 148 is very appealing.
N’Golo (2.05 Kelso)
There is still a big run in N’GOLO who appeals significantly as the handicapper continues to ease his mark.
He is now 8lb lower than for his very encouraging reappearance at Haydock, in which he only faded out of contention late to finish fourth. Next time out at Ascot, he hung so horribly left, that he drifted wildly over to the stands rail up the straight, but would have been bang there with a chance otherwise.
The handicapper has surely given him every chance by dropping him another 4lb for that run and the extra two furlongs here are not expected to be any issue whatsoever.
He is currently priced up among the outsiders for the race, but he is still only a seven-year-old and can certainly outrun his odds.
Miss Fairfax (2.20 Doncaster)
Get A Tonic ran a very good race in open company last time and that certainly gives her a form edge on this field.
There would be a concern about this trip stretching her stamina, however, having never run close to three miles before and she is taken on with MISS FAIRFAX for Hughie Morrison.
This mare’s stamina is all but assured given her last two efforts and the quality of her efforts is very solid too. She gave the unbeaten Love Envoi a serious race on her hurdles debut, when conceding 3lb, while today’s rival Holly Hartingo only just had her measure at Ludlow.
However, the last twice, she has won impressively, when upped to 2m7f and then 3m1½f, the latter on soft ground. This will be enough of a stamina test at this early stage of each mare’s career and Miss Fairfax looks very well placed to capitalise on that.
Espoir De Romay (2.40 Kelso)
Won last year by Cloth Cap on his way to Grand National favouritism, the Listed Premier Chase has four more Aintree entries this year.
However, it is a runner with no entries after this Kelso race that appeals most. ESPOIR DE ROMAY may just be the class horse in the race based on his best form from last season.
Two wins at Huntingdon and Leicester sandwiched a defeat by Royale Pagaille at Haydock. Given what that horse has gone on to achieve, that defeat, conceding 5lb, looks even better in hindsight. He would almost certainly have run Chantry House very close in the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on his last novice start too.
His comeback was more lowkey behind Fiddlerontheroof at Carlisle, but he is stepped back up in trip here, which should be a big positive and he has previously gone very well fresh. In this lineup, he is the only horse who looks like he could break through to the very top tier.
The Big Bite (2.55 Doncaster)
The key form in this handicap came over course and distance at the end of January.
In that race THE BIG BITE was second to Funambule Sivola who went on to win the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury two weeks later. Yet Henry Oliver’s charge is allowed to run off the same mark for that dead-heated runner-up finish.
If repeating that level of form, he will almost certainly go very close once again and the fact he was within one length of that winner is another positive, in spite of the relatively bunched finish. To these eyes, it was simply a very strong handicap.
The fifth that day, King D’argent is the big danger, as he was only three lengths further back and has been dropped a further 2lb. If anything, a reverse forecast on those two looks a sensible play as well.
Saint D’oroux (3.15 Kelso)
The three at the head of the market, Metier, Autumn Evening and two-time Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air are more evidently eyecatching.
The first named finally refound the form that saw him cruise to success in the 2021 Tolworth Hurdle. However, there would be concerns that Harry Fry’s six-year-old needs a softer surface, while Autumn Evening, though progressive and a big danger for Jessica Harrington, is still very heavily punished with a 7lb higher mark than he’d have in Ireland.
Buveur D’Air is making his reappearance after 331 days off and it’s difficult to be confident now he is 11. SAINT D’OROUX is therefore taken to upset the trio.
Useful enough for Gordon Elliott in handicaps, he won well for new trainer Simon Crawford at this track last month. That was on good ground, but he had shown a better aptitude for softer when handled in Ireland. The return to two miles is no negative and he is only 3lb higher than for his stable debut success.
Legends Gold (3.30 Doncaster)
You should always be able to forgive one bad run and LEGENDS GOLD has had just that on her most recent start.
Her three runs to start this season were highly encouraging, being third at Bangor and Newbury, the second of those at Listed level, and then second to a progressive rival at Ludlow.
Her trainer Rebecca Curtis admitted that she turned the eight-year-old out again too quickly at Wincanton on her most recent effort in which she was pulled up. The winner won by 34 lengths, so it was unreasonable she could have challenged anyway.
Down 2lb, she is now racing off the lowest handicap chase mark of her career. She is a sound jumper and stayer and looks well overpriced here.
Gold Des Bois (3.43 Kelso)
It is a trial to recommend GOLD DES BOIS given he has made a habit of not winning, but conditions look set for him to get his second chase victory.
Having raved about the Doncaster form for The Big Bite earlier, it is only fair the same consideration be given to Iain Jardine’s horse. He was fourth in that race, beaten only three lengths and yet has found himself 2lb lower in the handicap here.
Apart from when he was second at Carlisle in October, he has raced exclusively against more experienced opposition since joining from Ireland. Back in novice company off that same mark of 126, he is surely in with a chance of putting some near misses behind him.
The class horse Hardy Du Seuil is seen as the biggest danger back down in trip.