Steve Hughes waits for the final two races on Newbury’s excellent Friday card
Newbury’s two day meeting is growing in standard and importance in recent seasons and the moving of the Long Distance Hurdle to the Friday gives the opening day a real focal point. I have a selection for the feature, plus a hopeful in the closing handicap.
Newbury 3.00: Wholestone
An excellent renewal of the Long Distance Hurdle can go the way of Wholestone.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ hurdler has long been high class and started his campaign in ideal fashion by having the pace to win around Aintree on good going over 2m4f. In reality he is a 3m horse ideally, although he doesn’t quite seem to get home at that trip up Cheltenham’s hill. Nevertheless he was a fine third in the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival.
On a flatter track like Newbury though, 3m should be perfect. Whilst he ran poorly in this contest last year, I think we can put that down to a rare off day rather than a dislike for the track. His form around the likes of Aintree and Wetherby shows he can handle these flat, galloping tracks no problem.
Newbury 3.35: Aux Ptits Soins
He is notoriously brittle but Aux Ptits Soins has been given a chance by the handicapper and new handler Dan Skelton is a dab hand at getting good horse at their best after a long absence.
In his favour is an excellent record fresh. He won his first career start when trained in France and then defied a six month gap to win on his first start in Britain in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, no less. Injury problems re-occurred which meant we did not see him again until the following Festival where he ran a cracker to be fifth to Thistlecrack in the Stayers Hurdle, and was the only horse to really serve it up to him in that contest.
He is not the best of jumpers and his chasing career did not really take off in 2016/17. He was though a fine second in a Haydock Grade 2 back over hurdles and this contest represents a real drop in class. The assessor has dropped him 11lbs from his career high mark and he is only 2lbs higher than for that Coral Cup success. If Skelton has him anywhere near his peak he looks a very solid each-way wager.
1pt win – Wholestone – 3.00 Newbury – 9/4 general
0.75pts each-way – Aux Ptits Soins – 3.35 Newbury – 10/1 BetVictor (1/5 odds first 4)