Philip Kirby, whose horses have been in excellent form since he shifted base mid-winter from Castleton on the North York Moors to Middleham, can land the biggest win of his training career at Newcastle today – but it won’t be easy.
The £50,000 Betfred Eider Chase is annually run over four miles and one furlong and with the ground expected to be testing, a slog of marathon proportions awaits the runners, including Kirby’s Cool Operator, the mount of Richie McGrath.
Although he has never won over such an extended distance, Cool Operator is a stout stayer over shorter trips and also acts well in the mud. Also, he comes into the race crucially fresh, having not run since the turn of the year.
His form this season, however, has a good profile.
He won his last two starts, at Towcester and Carlisle in the style of a horse at the top of his game. He will need to prove that point this afternoon, but his chances of lifting this prestigious prize look promising to say the least.
Sheriff Hutton trainer Tim Walford runs his Cheltenham Festival entry Fentara in the opening Betfred Mobile Sports Novices’ Chase.
Entered in two amateur rider chases at the Festival, Fentara has enjoyed a decent season.
Two outings ago she won by no less than 38 lengths at Kelso from Micro Mission, a winner since, and at Wetherby on her latest outing she finished a creditable third to Goulanes in Grade 2 company. She has good prospects.
Our Joey may prove the answer to the Betfred Goals Galore Novices’ Hurdle.
The five-year-old, formerly a useful bumper horse, came home with a wide margin to spare at Kelso in his latest hurdles start for trainer George Bewley, who views him as a very exciting prospect. His amateur son Jonathan again has the ride tomorrow.
Keith Reveley, whose useful Victor Hewgo is probably the main danger to Our Joey, can figure on the scoresheet with Robbie in the Betfred Mobile Lotto Handicap Hurdle.
This giant-sized gelding has won his last three races, two at Southwell and most recently at Doncaster. He is climbing up the ratings and now has to raise his game once more. But it may not be beyond him.
At Fontwell tomorrow, Paul Nicholls has excellent prospects of capturing the featured totepool National Spirit Hurdle, a Grade 2 race with £50,000 in added prize money.
Nicholls saddles three of the runners and all eyes will be Prospect Wells, the highest-rated of the trio. He started the season with a good second at Wincanton to stablemate Zarkandar, but has been disappointing since in two starts. He will be hard to beat if bouncing back.
Tomorrow’s nap vote goes to Seebright, winner of his last two races and representing the Victor Dartnall stable, which is back in business after a serious illness affected many of his horses earlier in the campaign. He lines up in the opening toteplacepot Novices’ Hurdle.
• Today’s nap is York Glory in the 2.30 at Lingfield.
1.45 Fentara, 2.20 Robbie, 2.55 Cool Operator, 3.30 Our Joey, 4.05 Firth Of The Clyde, 4.40 Billy Cuckoo, 5.15 Winged Crusader.
Today’s other meetings: Chepstow, Kempton and Lingfield.
2.10 Seebright (NAP), 2.40 Tenor Nivernais, 3.15 Time To Think, 3.45 Prospect Wells, 4.20 Man From Moscow, 4.50 All Annalena, 5.20 Somchine.
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Towcester.