A host of Cheltenham Festival candidates test their crendentials on Saturday at Cheltenham and Doncaster. We look at some of the key races and what we might expect to learn from each of them…
King seeks to strengthen Triumph Hurdle hand
JCB Juvenile Hurdle Trial (12.40 Cheltenham)
Alan King has a good record in the Triumph having sent out Penzance and Katchit to win the race this century, and he has a number of chances this season with Sceau Royal, Gibralfaro and Who Dares Wins.
Who Dares Wins puts his credentials on the line on Saturday and will be tasked with building upon a highly impressive wide-margin win in testing conditions at Doncaster last time. Is he as good as that 20-length win makes him look? We will find out.
Shaneshill wins the Killinan Beginners Chase
Shaneshill: represents the stable of Arkle favourite Shaneshill
Douvan stablemate out to land major blow to Britain
Grand-national2016.co.uk Lightning Novices’ Chase (1.00 Doncaster)
Douvan, a 1-2 shot in the Racing Post Arkle, is already the second-shortest-priced favourite at the Cheltenham Festival, and should his stablemate Shaneshill beat one of Britain’s leading novice chasers in Vaniteux, that price could plummet further.
Vaniteux is a 10-1 chance in the Arkle, currently third in the market, and it would be a severe blow to his Festival prospects were he to be put in his place by Douvan’s less-heralded stablemate.
Djakadam and Ruby Walsh
Djakadam: more to lose than gain at Cheltenham on Saturday?
Can leading Gold Cup hope improve his prospects?
BetBright Trial Chase (1.50 Cheltenham)
Despite Cue Card and Vautour arguably running career bests in the King George, Djakadam’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup claims were deemed to have improved having stood still in his box over Christmas by the bookmakers.
Djakadam faces some talented rivals in the Betbright Chase but, in truth, they are a notch below the very best and he should have little difficulty putting them in their places.
Whether Djakadam has the class to win potentially one of the best Gold Cups of the modern era has yet to be answered, and probably won’t be answered until the big day. It is difficult to shake the feeling he has more to lose than gain on Saturday.
Barters Hill (David Bass)
Barters Hill: faces a thorough stayer in Up For Review at Doncaster
Barters trip up for review at Doncaster
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2.40 Doncaster)
Should Up For Review defeat Barters Hill, one of Britain’s leading Cheltenham Festival hopes, then the talk about Willie Mullins’ domination really will step up a gear.
The race will help shape Ben Pauling’s decision about whether to aim Barters Hill at the Albert Bartlett or the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and in Up For Review he faces a thorough stayer.
Relative ability, rather than suitability to conditions, is likely to prove the decisive factor.