Steve Hughes has two selections for the opening day of the Newbury Winter Festival
A classy opening day to Newbury’s big jumps fixture with the undoubted highlight the Long Distance hurdle with the clash of Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack. However it is two chases I am most interested in for betting purposes. Headline selection Lovely Job was a winner on Thursday (5/4).
Newbury 1.50: Willoughby Court
Willoughby Court did not please everyone with his win on chasing debut at Huntingdon, but to me this is a horse that has to go left-handed and he ought to be much better suited by Newbury.
His only defeat in four outings over hurdles was his one run going right-handed at Market Rasen. After that he was faultless with two wins at Warwick and then the major highlight, victory in the Neptune at the Cheltenham Festival where he bravely saw off the sustained challenge of hot favourite Neon Wolf.
Constantly jumping out to his left at Huntingdon, I think he actually did really well in the circumstances to see off Casablanca Mix (impressive winner since). His front running style ought to be perfectly suited to this small field and I think he will be pretty fluent around a left-handed circuit.
Newbury 2.25: Oldgrangewood
A very interesting handicap and I think the safest play is an each-way bet on Oldgrangewood.
I am excited by Willie Boy as a long term prospect, having won over course and distance on the last meeting on what was effectively his second chase start. However he could be pressured for the lead by the likes of Space Oddity, so a strong gallop looks assured.
That will play into the hands of Oldgrangewood who usually travels and jumps well into his races. He was a solid third in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree on his last start and this race is not quite of that calibre. Harry Skelton ought to be able his mount gradually into the contest and try and pounce should the early pace fold.
1.5pts win – Willoughby Court – 1.50 Newbury – 2/1 general
1pt each-way – Oldgrangewood – 2.25 Newbury – 6/1 Bet365, (¼ odds first 3)