A Great Week Ahead

April 24th, 2016 | Marten's Current Racing Diary

The 2015/16 Jumps Season reached a fitting climax at Sandown on Saturday when Paul Nicholls became a deserved winner of the trainers’ championship for the 10th time. This was a fine effort given that Paul’s best horse would probably not even figure in the top ten that Willie Mullins is able to call upon.

The advantage went his way last weekend when Vicente landed the Coral Scottish Grand National, helping him towards his final margin of almost £100,000 over his rival.

The new campaign starts again with the Punchestown festival, in which many of the season’s stars will be out in action again. However two horses that will not be in action this week are Thistlecrack and Don Cossack, who have both sustained injuries in the last few days.

There will still be plenty to look forward to, with Cue Card meeting Don Poli and possibly Vautour in the Punchestown Gold Cup, although the latter has the preferred option of running in the Champion Chase on Tuesday against Special Tiara and God’s Own.

Yorkshill will start odds-on for the Champion Novice Hurdle while Alpha Des Obeaux may meet Diamond King, Shaneshill and Vroum Vroum Mag in the Stayers Hurdle. Douvan is already as short as 1/10 for the Ryanair Novice Chase while Annie Power heads the market from My Tent Or Yours and Identity Thief in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Runaway Aintree winner Apple’s Jade may run in the Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle.

It promises to be another great week of action, with the Guineas meeting starting at Newmarket on Saturday. I am writing my first Online Preview of the season for Newmarket, available to download by 8.00pm on Friday evening.

I was a little surprised to learn that Aidan O’Brien has decided to let Ballydoyle take her chance along with stable companion and favourite Minding in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday. The filly apparently did a very pleasing piece of work on Saturday and the likely good ground will suit her. The decision does, though, suggest Minding may not carry the weight of confidence that some would have expected. On form last season there is not more than a couple of pounds between the two fillies.

Lumiere continues to hold steady following her impressive workout at the Craven meeting. The key to her over this stiff mile is her settling. There is no news yet from John Gosden about the participation of Nathra, who has the French Guineas as an alternative target.

Air Force Blue looks likely to start at around 1/2 for the 2,000 Guineas. Soft ground would have been a threat but the long-range weather forecast suggests there is not much rain about. Massaat and Buratino are worthy opponents despite being held by the favourite on last year’s form.

Looking back to Saturday I suggest you keep an eye on Lincoln, possibly with the Victoria Cup in mind. Mick Channon’s never saw any daylight at Haydock on Saturday and was allowed to come home on the bridle in his own time. He ran second in the Ascot race last year and is now rated on a 2lb lower mark.

Others that caught the eye were Mad Jack Mytton, who travelled well for a long way in the last at Sandown, and Wilde Blue Yonder, who shaped nicely after a very long time off the track. It was interesting to see Alan King bring the latter out so late in the season. He probably has something in mind for him.

Bye for now