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Racing Preview of this weekend’s racing with Farringdon: March 2-3

Including races at Newbury, Doncaster, Navan and Wolverhampton

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THERE are some cracking handicaps at Newbury and Doncaster this afternoon and I shall be having a significant play in both of the feature events in Berkshire and South Yorkshire, kicking off with last season’s Topham Handicap Chase winner, BILL BAXTER (nap), in the Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Newbury, 1.55).

Just the nine runners have been entered for this valuable two-and-a-half-mile contest with the layers likely to offer at least 7/2 the field. The selection has run four times since his Aintree success of April 2023 and has gradually been returning to form in tandem, with the handicapper releasing the brake on his handicap mark.

Following that win over the Grand National fences, his rating went up from 133 to 141 and he certainly has not been disgraced in Listed/Class two handicap chases since, culminating in an eighth behind GA Law at Cheltenham, where he did too much too soon. The eight-year-old is better raced as a presser rather than being out on the front end, so if he is to take advantage of a rating of 135 then hopefully James Bowen will ride him with a bit more restraint.

Of his rivals, Kandoo Kid (better than he showed last time out) and bottom weight and unexposed eight-year-old Highstakesplayer look the main dangers.

At Doncaster, the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase (3.40), has only attracted a field of 13 which is disappointing with the prize money on offer, but it should still be a good test on softish ground over the extended three-and-a-quarter-mile trip.

Richard Hobson’s Some Trick will be chasing a hat-trick here following wins off 110 and 115 and now needs another significant step forward off 125. The progressive six-year-old makes the market for the other dozen runners set to line up here. I suspect the drier the ground then the better his chance of landing this major pot.

So, if you want to oppose the market leader then I think the best each-way player has to be CERTAINLY RED. You could hardly say that the 10-year-old is very well treated, but he is the most likely entry to give his running here. He is now back down to his last winning mark of 135, and should be at home on this galloping track.

My one reservation is that you could argue that his best form is probably running right-handed, but this isn’t the greatest strength on depth renewal of this race, and he looks a solid play at around the 10/1 marker. Does He Know is the other double-figure-priced runner to consider having run well for a long way in the Grade Two Denman Chase last time out when ultimately outclassed down the final stretch.

The other interesting betting event at the Town Moor track could come in the form of EQUINUS in the staying handicap hurdle at 2.05. I thought that the Twiston-Davies runner was a shade disappointing at Sandown Park in December when he weakened quite quickly on the final climb at the Esher track. But following a short break to freshen him up, this lightly raced six-year-old bounced back with a strong staying on third at Newbury three weeks ago. Set to race off the same mark here, I expect him to prove too strong for the likes of Fingal’s Hill and top weight Mac Tottie.

Top weight Nube Negra wouldn’t want too much rain under his welter burden in the extended two-mile chase at 2.35, and in receipt of a huge 23lbs I expect a massive run from the returning NUMITOR. Heather Main’s charge is back down to his last winning mark and a fast run two miles around here will bring his guaranteed stamina into play down the long home run.

Later on, the mares staying novice hurdle at 3.10 looks competitive for a race of its class and former point to point winner and recent Newcastle third, PINOT ROUGE, can take advantage of the extra yardage. The daughter of Vendangeur stayed on strongly on her only start over hurdles over two-and-a-half miles, and I am not surprised that trainer Susan Corbett is stepping her up significantly in trip. On my base figures she has plenty to find with the likes of Ottizzini and Gaye Legacy to name but two, but a strong step forward in trip will play to her strengths more than it will to several of the market leaders in this event.

In the final race on the card, the 2m handicap hurdle at 4.50, I am willing to have an each-way play on SERGEANT WILSON from the Twiston-Davies camp. The six-year-old was well backed last time out at Fakenham but ran way too freely and is worth another chance off a rating of 108.

Back over at Newbury, the opening Veteran’s Handicap Chase (1.20) offers a really good opening for top weight HIGHLAND HUNTER with amateur rider Tom Broughton taking 5lbs off his back. Naturally, the 11-year-old isn’t as good as when he came runner-up in the Welsh National in 2021, but has still shown glimpses of his old ability this season and this is just about his easiest task since then. Cyclop and Fortescue are the two I fear most in the current testing conditions.

Away from the two main meetings I particularly like the look of AODHAN MAY (Navan, 2.40) as he bids to complete a quick fire hat-trick in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle, while on the same card, the Grade Three Flying Bolt Novice Chase should go the way of the Willie Mullins-trained BLOOD DESTINY (3.48).

Under the lights at Wolverhampton, the main play of the night is CONFEDERATION at 5.30. The Dylan Cunha trained charge steps back up to six furlongs for the first time in 12 months after two strong finishing efforts over the minimum trip, and races off a career low handicap mark of 54 for the South African handler.

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