We’ve reached the final day of a Jumps season like no other – it’s certainly a year few will forget, for so many reasons that sadly sit outside the horseracing bubble.
On a personal front things are looking up after a groggy few days. – I had an operation on the fracture to my cheekbone sustained at Aintree last Thursday and I’m recovering well. I’m hoping to be back riding in five or six weeks time.
Congratulations must go to Harry Skelton on winning his maiden Championpionship. Harry’s worked very hard, ridden superbly well and been incredibly consistent. It was a very impressive feat coming back from a big deficit to beat the Brian Hughes – I saw somewhere that Harry was as big as 100/1 to win the title in the Autumn last year. That just tells you how big a comeback it was!
It was a huge effort from the Skelton family; Dan has backed his brother up with lots of great rides and the whole team at Lodge Hill will deservedly celebrate a great win.
1:55pm: Bet365 Novices’ Championship Final Handicap Hurdle
I fancy Celestial Force to justify favouritism for my boss Paul Nicholls. He had a wind op back in November and after a five month break he returned back to good form finishing second at Newton Abbott a few weeks ago. That will have sweetened him up perfectly for this.
He’ll definitely improve for his last run and he’s got a nice handicap weight for Saturday’s race. Conditional Jockey Lorcan Williams takes another three pounds off which further helps his chances. Paul has eyed up this race for Celestial Force for while and compared to the most of the field he arrives pretty fresh.
One danger at a slightly bigger price would be Herbiers. He’s a four-year-old so he’ll get a weight allowance which will help his prospects.
2:30pm: Grade 2 Bet365 Oaksey Chase
Frodon is the best horse in the race by a distance and I expect him to win well. Born Survivor and Militarian are nice horses but aren’t at the same level as Frodon.
Mister Fisher is the interesting one; he was going quite well at Aintree before he unseated Nico de Boinville in the Betway Bowl two weeks ago. He rates as the major danger to Frodon for me but in all honesty I think Frodon is a class above.
His razor sharp jumping will be seen to its best when the field head down Sandown’s famous stretch railway fences and the course is a good track for front runners. All the signs point in his direction, for me.
3:05pm: Grade 1 Bet365 Celebration Chase
I believe Nicky Henderson will have Altior back in tip-top form. Altior at 11/4, even though I don’t bet, looks a good price. If he returns to anything similar to his old form, he’ll beat this field.
Looking at his rivals, Put The Kettle On has been in fantastic form of late. She’s a top-class mare, a two-time winner at the Cheltenham Festival and the reigning Champion Chaser.
Sceau Royal is very consistent and Greaneteen ran well in his last race coming fourth in the Champion Chase only two lengths behind Put The Kettle On.
Altior would still be my number one pick of the whole fixture. The last time he started at odds this big was over 5 years ago – when I was still a conditional jockey!
I think the old Altior will be back and it’ll be great to see him back to his best.
3:40pm: Grade 3 Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase
The second favourite Enrilo is a horse I know well, having ridden him in nine races. It’ll be a test for him going over three miles and five furlongs for the first time and it’s the first time he’ll run in a big handicap but he has great stamina and he’s in really good form.
Looking at the field, it’s an extremely open race, there’s not a horse that stands out as very well handicapped, or as having been targeted for this race.
A horse at big odds I think will go well is The Young Master. He’s no spring chicken at 12 years of age, but he’s shown he can perform at Sandown towards the end of the season on better ground. He won this race in 2016 and finished second in 2019.
4:15pm: Grade 2 Bet365 Select Hurdle
On The Blind Side, Call Me Lord and Pic D’Orhy are three very good horses, they’re be the three main contenders for me. Pic D’Orhy is the one I’d ride if I had a choice of any of the horses, he’s a top horse on his day. He’s won a Betfair Hurdle so he’s shown he’s got the ability to win a big Graded hurdle race.
4:50pm: Bet365 Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase
I think Lust For Glory will run well at a big price. She may be the outsider but she’s won two Mares’ Chases this season and is extremely consistent. The only time she hasn’t finished in the top 4 was last time when tackling the Grand National fences in the Topham Handicap.
Some horses just don’t take to those fences, so I wouldn’t look at that result for too long. I think she’s underestimated.
5:25pm: Bet365 Handicap Hurdle
If I was to pick one horse to ride it would be Solo, he’s the second highest-rated horse so he’s got quite a bit of weight to carry but he’s a talented horse and I can see him running well.
The favourite Cascova for Nicky Henderson and Nico de Boinville won by an impressive eight lengths last month at Ascot. He’s seems the right horse in terms of form and looks very progressive.