Highland set to climb Mares rankings

Steve Hughes concentrates on a competitive jumping card at Doncaster for Friday’s two selections.

Doncaster has certainly made plenty of effort to bolster their jumps fixtures over the past couple of winters and have been rewarded with another decent card on Friday. I have selections from two chases including a valuable mares only chase. We kept up the winner a day record for the week when Toowoomba secured victory at Leicester (advised 3/1)

Doncaster 2.05: Highland Retreat

Open mares only chases are still something of a rarity in Britain and we have a small but select field for this decent pot at Doncaster this afternoon. Highland Retreat was a top class mare over hurdles and has the scope to jump fences. However she was a little disappointing on her first two starts this season over the bigger obstacles. A far better effort though at Huntingdon last time increases my confidence greatly for today.

Highland Retreat has generally been best on flatter tracks, winning at the likes of Wincanton and Kempton in the past and she was well beaten in the Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival last season. We perhaps should not have been surprised then that she was ultimately a soundly beaten favourite behind The Romford Pele there back in October. She was also turned over by Return Spring at Exeter next time, another stiff track (although the winner that day is well fancied for a big prize at Warwick on Saturday.)

However at Huntingdon last time, a track where her free going style allowed her to remain strong until the finish, she produced a strong effort, jumping boldly and coming home 9l clear of Mickie. A drop in trip to 2m4f probably helped as well and we can expect AP McCoy to be positive today. She jumped to her left at Huntingdon so a switch to a left-handed track will help too. The ground at Doncaster was in danger of becoming quicker than ideal yesterday, but heavy overnight rain will assist her – and be against chief market rival Pepite Rose, who has been below her best this season anyway.

Doncaster 2.40: Lord Brendy

A horse I have been following closely since making his jumping debut at the beginning of last season, Lord Brendy can become a real flag-bearer for the unheralded yard of Robert Johnson and can land a first win over fences off bottom weight today.

A striking grey he is bred to be a 3m chaser as a son of Portrait Gallery a sire who gets plenty of decent staying types such as former Eider Chase winner Portrait King and progressive novice Knockanrawley. He ran a very decent race on his first attempt at 3m or beyond at Catterick last time and looks to have a very fair mark now he has got some real experience behind him over fences this winter.

He improved throughout last season over hurdles, often travelling well and got a win on the board when scoring in a Kelso maiden in April. However it was no surprise to see him sent over fences this autumn, and got off to a nice start when staying on into third over 2m4f at Hexham in October. After an early fall next time, his next two runs involved less of a test of stamina which did not see him in such a good light, albeit he finished well to be second over Catterick’s sharp 2m3f. Jockey Peter Buchanan was in no hurry on him over 3m1f at the same track last time but again he finished well to get within 7l of a 139 rated horse in If In Doubt. His current mark of 110 looks very workable and this more galloping track should be in his favour.

Recommended bets:

2pts win – Highland Retreat – 2.05 Doncaster (7/4 general)

1pts win – Lord Brendy – 2.40 Doncaster (4/1 general)

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