What with one thing and another (and another and another), dear reader, I've somewhat neglected to preview any of the big Saturday races for a while now.
So let's put that straight, with a look at today's two features, the Eider at Newcastle and the Racing Post Chase at Kempton.
Let's start in the North East. Last season, the race was won by Comply Or Die, who went on to win the Grand National, so it ranks as a decent trial for the big Aintree showpiece.
8-10 year olds have held a monopoly on this race since 1999, so I can't comfortably have a younger or older horse. The favourite, Jass, is a 7yo and is hesitantly passed over at the first fence. Also falling here are Chabrimal Minster, Fair Question, and Toy Gun.
This is increasingly contested by classy horses, and the last six winners all lugged eleven stone plus to victory. I'll happily exclude Stagecoach Diamond on this criterion, and reluctantly scratch Pass Me By (two pound shy of 11-00) and I Will Remember You (1lb shy).
Recent form is a big plus for this contest, and eight of the last twelve winners had finished 1st or 2nd last time out. Top class hunter, Natiain, bids farewell here, as do Minster Shadow and Rimsky.
This leaves us with: Harmony Brig, Morgan Be and Merigo.
Proven stamina is a must here for the marathon 4m 1f trip. None of the trio above has won at more than 3m 1f, so there is something of a leap of faith required.
The winner in 1997 was a 7yo, and the likeliest trends winner must be the precocious Jass. He has won over 4 miles, fits all other trends, and comes from the top stable for the race (the Reveley's).
At 3/1, I won't be backing him, but I can't find anything I'd recommend against him either.
Over at Kempton, the Racing Post Chase has attracted a bumper and classy field for it's tidy £57,000 prize. We've twenty contenders to wade through, so let's get cracking!
Three VERY strong trends have emerged in the last decade in this race, and it would be churlish to ignore them:
- 9/10 winners carried eleven stone or more
- 9/10 won last time out
- 9/10 had won in a Class 2 race or better prior to victory here
Applying this information to today's field reduces it to a more manageable TWO. So there you have it, the winner will be either Big Fella Thanks or Nacarat!
I was mindful of the fact that the top weight Nozic actually forces all the other horses to carry at least six pounds less than they would if he wasn't present. But even then, there's only one other last time out winner in the field: Nicky Henderson's Fleet Street (who lugs 10-10).
It's not a race that springs surprises too often, as testified by the fact that the last ten winners were all in single figure odds.
With these things in mind, I'm going to side with Nacarat, with a saver on the Big Fella Thanks. (I couldn't possibly tip a horse named after a catchphrase of that arch-buffoon, Derek 'Thommo' Thompson).
The 'Nac' comes from the savvy Tom George stable, is an 8yo (won 5 of last 10 runnings), and has a certain triple milennium-winning jockey aboard (Mr AP McCoy). He'll give us a run for the Cheltenham shekels.
Talking of Cheltenham, I hope you've grabbed your copy of the Festival Preview guide. If not, go check it out here.
If you have secured your copy, and you've had a chance to look through it, please leave a comment below to tell me what you think. (I reckon it's brilliant, but I'm interested in your thoughts!)
Good luck today,