This weekend the last of the significant Cheltenham trials will be run at Kempton. The final pieces of the festival jigsaw are tumbling on to the tea-tray of hope and racing folk are taut with anticipation. Once again, we’ve lined up a crack-team of panellists for our Cheltenham Preview Night on Thursday evening 5th March – and you can be sure that they’ll all be glued to the racing this weekend.
The Preview Night will be sponsored for the first time by Star Sports, who’ll be providing betting intelligence in the form of Trevor Harris – as well as a voucher, for every attendee, to match a bet up to the value of £50. Our local trainer Jimmy Moffatt, who’s victory with Chief Dan George lives long in the memory, will be joined by form expert Marten Julian and Racing UK broadcaster Mark Howard. Tickets cost £15, which includes a light supper.
Earlier this week the BHA’s handicapper revealed the weights that he’d allocated to entries for this year’s Grand National. Seventh from the top of the list, on 11st 4lb, is Rajdhani Express - a non-runner last weekend when carrying the burden of our selection at Ascot. Useful though the gelding is, he needs to be placed in a race of 3 miles or more in order to meet the qualification criteria to run at Aintree. That’s his task at Kempton on Saturday - and the main reason why he’s our selection once again.
Further down the list is Shutthefrontdoor, who is likely to be the mount of Tony McCoy - in which case he could easily become the shortest priced favourite of the Grand National in a hundred years. He may have too much weight to win the race, but at 10/1, he looks a good ante-post play on the betting exchanges. I wouldn’t put anyone off Carlito Brigante, although he could easily be 50-1 or more on the day, so isn’t worth diving in for just yet.
Instead, you should back Merry King at 25/1. It’s conceivable, although unlikely, that if anything goes wrong with Shutthefrontdoor and other McManus owned horses, McCoy could be in the saddle. And having been given a recent pipe-opener over hurdles, he looks to have been handed a great weight (10st 5lb) for the National. He gets a 5lb pull with Many Clouds (to whom he was third in the Hennessy Gold Cup – beaten 4¼ lengths), who is now fancied to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He’s sure to be shorter in the coming weeks.
And further down the list still, on 9st 5lb, we find Rose Of The Moon. The grey gelding ran well last year, but is in danger of missing the cut as only 40 horses can run. He looks ready made to pick up a great consolation prize at Cartmel when we stage the Burlington Stone Grand Veterans Chase on Bank Holiday Monday, 25th May.
Oh… The sweet smell of honey!