What a fantastic Saturday in store of racing fans. The Breeders’ Cup meeting concludes in America, where Roaring Lion bids for glory in the Classic itself.
Closer to home, the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby always has that sort of ‘jumps racing proper starts now’ feel to it while there’s also a big Grade 1 over fences at Down Royal where the list of previous winners includes the great Kauto Star!
Wholestone, 3.15 Wetherby @ 7/4
The West Yorkshire Hurdle is one of the first staying hurdles contests of note in the season and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone appears to hold the best credentials for this three-miler.
He was second to Colin’s Sister in this contest a year ago and would go on to place in the big staying hurdles races at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals in the spring. His Naunton handler always tends to have his string in good order from this time of year onwards and Wholestone edges the verdict from the likes of Old Guard, who must prove himself over the trip.
Double Shuffle, 2.40 Wetherby @ 7/2
In the big race at Wetherby it appears as though Double Shuffle is the one the market is overlooking early on. Tom George’s charge ended last season with a couple of sub-standard efforts in strong races, perhaps contributing to his price now.
Double Shuffle has a track record of going well fresh and, if anywhere near as good as he was when chasing home Might Bite in the King George on Boxing Day, will take some stopping now.
With some big names side-stepping this race, Adrian Heskin’s mount is favoured receiving weight to get the better of Black Corton, a resilient novice last season for Paul Nicholls who should run well under Bryony Frost but is stepping up in class nonetheless.
Road To Respect, 2.30 Down Royal @ 7/4
Look out for the Gigginstown masses here with Michael O’Leary’s outfit responsible for no less than five of the seven runners. Outlander took the prize 12 months ago for Gordon Elliott but has been thoroughly inconsistent since, while Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos reappears for Hendy De Bromhead and needs respecting.
Over this trip though it is Noel Meade’s Road To Respect – second last year – that is favoured. Still just seven-years-old, he may have more to give this season and is already a high-class staying chaser, having ended last season with excellent efforts in the Gold Cups at Cheltenham and Punchestown. A second Grade One success beckons at Down Royal.
Magical, 8.56 Churchill Downs @ 11/2
Enable casts a long shadow over the Breeders’ Cup Turf and will be odd-on to score but it has to be remembered no horse has ever won this race after landing the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. She could be up to it, but an each-way play is surely the value.
She was given a considerate ride in the Arc, coming home five-lengths behind Enable but, having shown that improved form over 1m4f trip, she duly picked up a Group 1 on British Champions Day at Ascot since, once connections were able to ride her with confidence over this trip.
Aidan O’Brien is the master of globetrotting with these horses and his daughter of Galileo is a viable alternative, especially for a place.