A monster weekend on the National Hunt calendar awaits, with Newbury’s Hennessy Meeting and Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth the crown jewels in a glut of quality televised action on Saturday afternoon, before the focus switches to Ireland on Sunday afternoon, with Fairyhouse very much the place to be.
Newcastle deserve a bit of luck with a card that has been hit hard by frost and rain in recent years, but with no problems anticipated everything looks set fair for a top notch afternoon’s sport at Gosforth Park, with the big race being billed as match between Supreme Novices’ Hurdle runner up My Tent Or Yours and Jeremy Scott’s exciting Melodic Rendezvous (live on C4, 2.05pm).
The latter missed Cheltenham in March, but returned to the track earlier this month in some style when seeing off the likes of Far West and the re-opposing Cotton Mill in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
Far West has since let the form down at Haydock last weekend, but Melodic Rendezous is tough and likeable and in the hands of a very shrewd trainer.
As for My Tent Or Yours, he’s no bigger than the 6/1 available with bet365, Betfred and Ladbrokes for the Champion Hurdle in the spring, but will need to win this to cement his claims on a weekend where we’ll also get a look at Jezki and Diakali across the Irish Sea.
After going down half a length to Champagne Fever in March he then made amends when hacking up by a whopping 16 lengths at Aintree.
Even though he was 4/11 in a four horse race that performance was visually stunning.
Both the front two in the betting boast predictably outstanding claims, but at a massive each way price I’m going to take them both on with a Grade 1 winner who at five years of age is younger than either of them, and was sent off favourite for the Triumph Hurdle 18 months ago.
Step forward: forgotten horse Grumeti.
Clearly right out of the top draw when hacking up in the Dovecote at Kempton in February of last year, he led approaching the last when third in the Triumph, and then made amends when adding a top level victory to his CV at Aintree.
Two good runs on the Flat preceded last season, but his 2012/13 campaign over timber was a write off as trainer Alan King experienced a series of training interruptions that kept one of his star inmates off the track, bar one outing at Ayr.
That’s said to be all behind him now though, and after two racecourse gallops at Newbury, plus a mountain of prep work, he’s said to be fit, firing and ready to ruffle a few feathers.
Punters have short memories, but this lad is class personified, has age on his side, and looks a massive each way price for the Fighting Fifth at 10/1 with either BetVictor or Coral.
It’s unclear at the time of writing whether the Philip Hobbs-trained Royal Regatta will take up his entry in the extended 2m 4f novices’ hurdle at Leicester on Sunday afternoon (3.40pm), but if he does he should win.
Described by his trainer as “a natural from day one” and “one of our best prospects”, that’s high praise indeed from a handler who isn’t known to talk up his string.
Superb when scoring at Aintree last month, he saw that form boosted when second placed Spirit Of Shankly cruised home at Haydock last weekend.
A second win of the campaign beckons.
The final word goes to long time friend and colleague Mark ‘Pink Diamond’ Jackson, the man who oversaw the successful production of RTE Racing for a decade, but on Thursday afternoon was on hand to witness his eye-catching six-year-old chaser Russe Blanc do the business in the hands of Charlie Poste at Uttoxeter.
Punters within a 100 metre radius at the Staffordshire venue dived for cover to avoid being hugged to death by an elated winning owner, who briefly ceased puffing on his trademark cheroot to address the crowd on the track’s PA system, demanding that a plumber be despatched to the weighing room with immediate effect, presumably to deal with the anticipated champagne spillage in the adjacent winning connections’ room.
Hats off to you Mark and long may it continue, a richly deserved success. Good Man Yourself.
This weekend’s best bet:
3.40 Leicester (Sunday) – Fernie Novices’ Hurdle – Royal Regatta (win)