Nick Scholfield

17th February 2017

Terrific cards in prospect this weekend

Today, I am at Sandown where I have three nice rides. I start with Victor Dartnall’s Exmoor Mist who hasn’t run since his reappearance at Chepstow in December. He’s in the “Ubique” Handicap Chase, which looks a competitive race, but hopefully he will run well.

In the Telegraph Hill Novices’ Hurdle I am on Oskar Denarius for Jennifer Mason, who trains a few point-to-pointers with her husband Pete. I’ve ridden him twice before and he’s improved with each run. Hopefully he will improve again.

Wayne Clifford of Bathwick Tyres runs a horse called Knight of Noir in the Alanbrooke Handicap Chase.  He’s trained by Neil Mulholland and he’s been running well. Conditions should suit him today.

Tomorrow, it looks like I will be heading to Wincanton for Kingwell Hurdle day. It’s a competitive-looking card where I might be on Irving in the grade two Betway Kingwell Hurdle, a race I’ve won previously on Melodic Rendezvous. But Yanworth, a main player for the Stan James Champion Hurdle, will be hard to beat.

Victor has entered the ultra consistent mare Midnight Sapphire who has been running well in mares’ races. She’s up against the boys this time, but she’s a really hardy mare.

Ascot’s main race is the Grade One Betway Ascot Chase with Cue Card likely to run. Back over 2m5,f it should be a good confidence booster for him ahead of the Timico Gold Cup. Also in the race is the BetVictor Gold Cup Chase winner Taquin De Seuil who is a very good horse, and he’s probably the one Cue Card needs to beat. On the same card is the Grade 2 Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase with entries including Fletchers Flyer and Arpege D’Alene who would both have good chances.

Haydock’s card includes the Betfred Grand National Trial, a race which has proved really informative in the past ahead of Aintree’s showpiece. There are plenty of good horses entered including Kerry Lee’s Goodtoknow, Becher Chase winner Vieux Lion Rouge and Blaklion, a good novice from last year who has found life a bit tougher this season.

With the Grand National weights published, trainers are no longer mindful of protecting their horses’ marks so it’s as good a renewal as ever.

There’s been a bit of controversy over the weights with the Irish thinking they haven’t been dealt a fair hand, but they’ve won it a good few times so I don’t think we’ll worry too much about that! It’s shaping up to be as good a race as ever. There are so many horses entered and you can make a valid case for many of them. I think Paul Nicholls has a good hand with his entries including Le Mercury, Saphir Du Rheu, and Scottish winner Vicente who all look to be on decent marks. Looking at the race as a whole, more and more people are running better horses in it. It’s a £million race, and you do need a horse with a fair bit of class to win it these days. The handicap marks are all much higher and the race has attracted a much better caliber of horse, which was probably the incentive behind the prize money boost.

A final word for Exeter, which staged an excellent meeting last Sunday. Finian’s Oscar was very impressive in the listed hurdle and I was also quite taken with Tea For Two’s performance in the Graduation Chase. IT was great to see graded winners participating at Exeter.