Steve Hughes picks two jumpers for Monday
In the hope that Newcastle passes its morning inspection, there is an excellent handicap chase with a course specialist likely to take the beating. I am also doing some each-way thieving at Southwell.
Newcastle 2.45: Smooth Stepper
A fascinating handicap chase in prospect and despite a short absence since his last run I expect Smooth Stepper to maintain his excellent track record.
In five runs at Newcastle the 9yo has placed 31216, the last four of which have been over fences. His two wins have been at this trip whilst his defeats were to the top class Seeyouatmidnight and then in the ultra competitive Eider Chase, where perhaps the 4m1f was beyond him.
That might explain his heavy defeat in the Durham National in the autumn, however his last run a close second over 3m2f at Uttoxeter was not too shabby and he is happy making the running which is Danny Cook’s default tactic in a race of this type – and he should face little competition for the lead if forcing tactics are employed
Southwell 3.00: Dakkar Collonges
This looks a decent little novice for the track, but that said, I can find reasons for all three market leaders to underperform and as such an each-way play on Dakkar Collonges might be in order.
Boreham Bill represents an out-of-form yard, Don Lami is not certain to appreciate the very soft ground whilst Monbeg Oscar has clear ability but keeps finding ways to lose over all types of trip and ground. Dakkar Collonges has a generally solid profile who should have no issues with the going and whose stable are having a steady winter.
The horse has had three runs over hurdles since joining Case from France. He was only beaten 5l first time up by a grade 2 placed horse in Midnight Shadow. He was then only beaten 10l into third by the 135 rated Diese des Bieffes who was favourite for the Lanzarote Hurdle last month. Most recently he was booked for second when falling at the last at Fakenham behind a useful Olly Murphy horse in Rio Quinto. A repeat of those efforts give him place chances, but hopefully he can build on his experience and improve on those today.
1.5pts win – Smooth Stepper – 2.45 Newcastle – 100/30 William Hill
0.75pts each-way – Dakkar Collonges – 3.00 Southwell – 9/1 Bet365, BetVictor, Paddy Power