Steve Hughes provides his best bets for Newbury’s Festive card
The Grade 1 Challow Hurdle is Newbury’s highlight today, featuring several promising novices. However it is the handicaps on the card that are of more interest for punting purposes.
Newbury 1.15: Early Du Lemo
I am keeping faith with Gary Moore’s novice chaser Early Du Lemo despite setbacks on his first two starts over the bigger obstacles.
We did not see this strapping grey in action much over hurdles, but with such a big frame to fill that was no surprise. Probably his best run though was here when second in a class 2 handicap hurdle in the spring on his first start for over twelve months.
He might have been well beaten at Chepstow on his seasonal return this autumn, but I was very taken with his jumping – his margin of defeat was greatly exaggerated in the straight when he got very tired. I fancied him on his next start at Sandown, only for him to tip up at the first. He then jumped enthusiastically riderless for the remainder of the contest, suggesting there will be no lack of confidence today. The opposition today does not look overly strong and I am sure he is a well handicapped horse.
Newbury 1.50: Unblinking
The usefulness of a young claiming jockey could be proven again this afternoon with Unblinking able to carry a feather weight against older rivals.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 5yo looked of little ability in his novice campaign, but did serve notice of some ability in the spring when second at Chepstow in a minor handicap. He had plenty of goes on the flat, but undoubtedly his best effort was when returning on sand last month at Kempton when second over 2m. That paved the way for a cracking run at Cheltenham’s November meeting when second in a huge field to the classy Palmers Hill.
He showed that effort to be no fluke when winning by a widening 6l at Warwick the following week off the same mark of 105. The handicapper has clobbered him with a 13lb rise, but this gelding looks to have come to himself now and could be improving at a rate of knots. Jockey Jordan Nailor was on board for those last two runs and is back today with that 7lb allowance leaving him with just 9-7 to carry.
Newbury 2.25: Aurillac
This will be his first start since Might Bite’s infamous RSA win at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, but there are good reason to think that Aurillac might strike for his new trainer David Pipe.
This 8yo displayed plenty of ability in his younger days, but also his fair share of temperament and did lose his way in latter races for previous trainer Rebecca Curtis. However that yard was under a cloud in that final season and I am sure he is far better than he looked in those final few races – the fact they still had a crack at the RSA suggests they know there is a talented horse to work with. The owners had plenty of success with Soll a few years ago when sending the horse for his later career to Pipe.
Even in that last season of racing he was placed four times over fences including twice here and can race off the same mark of 132 than when chasing home Belami Des Pictons on this card two seasons ago. The cheekpieces he wore for his best chasing performances are immediately restored here and Pipe is well capable of getting one right from a layoff.
Newbury 3.35: Wenyerreadyfreddie
Few novice chasers have impressed as much this season as Wenyerreadyfreddie and Nicky Henderson looks to have found a decent opportunity for this improving 7yo.
There aren’t many novice handicaps available for a horse rated 148, but he has found one here and he already looks a tremendous leaper in the three chases he has contested to date. He was beaten by the top class Lil Rockerfeller at Uttoxeter but has since made pretty much all the running to win consecutive races at Ascot – on the latter occasion despite jumping markedly left. He might well be better suited therefore going this way around today.
The form of those two wins has also taken a massive boost. On the former occasion he beat Caid Du Lin by 18l – that rival then won a huge pot at the same track at the following fixture at Ascot. He then bravely saw off Kildisart last time despite giving away all that ground with his left-handed jumps. Kildisart too went and won at the following Ascot fixture to frank the form further.
1pt win – Early Du Lemo – 1.15 Newbury – 11/2 general
1pt win – Unblinking – 1.50 Newbury – 9/2 general
0.75pts each-way – Aurillac – 2.25 Newbury – 13/2 general (Bet365 ¼ odds first 4)
1.5pts win – Wenyerreadyfreddie – 3.35 Newbury – 2/1 general