Newbury, Warwick and Leopardstown provide a feast of NH racing tomorrow afternoon with many Cheltenham contenders putting there Festival aspirations to the test with the likes of Silvinaco Conti, Flemenstar, Sir Des Champs just a few of the top names in action in both England and Ireland tomorrow.
I will be attending Newbury's Super Saturday fixture with the feature race the Betfair Hurdle one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the entire season and Nicky Henderson who has saddled the winner four times in the past is once again mob handed in this £150k contest with My Tent Or Yours the hot favourite alongside Petit Robin who heads the weights. Cash And Go, Lyvius, First In The Queue and 2010 Champion Hurdle winner Punjabi complete a formidable team from the Henderson stable. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is also strongly represented with Pearl Swam who warmed up for this with a spin on the all weather a few weeks ago perhaps the pick of his entries. David Pipe it triple handed with the unbeaten Swing Bowler the pick of his team. Ireland also is represented with a duo of runners with Gordon Elliot sending over his impressive Ladbroke winner Cause Of Causes's over and despite racing from a 10 pound higher handicap mark he won with plenty in hand at Ascot powering clear after the last in desperate ground and could well be open to plenty of improvement being only a five year old and a big run here could set up a Champion Hurdle bid and in this fiercely competitive race Cause Of Causes gets my vote.
It will be a pleasure to see the mighty Denman parade before the race named after him The Denman Chase and who could ever forget his memorable wins in the Hennessy Gold Cup in 2007 and especially in 2009 after returning from a heart problem he put up one of the great NH performances in recent times to carry 11-12 giving lumps of weight away to a high class field record a emotional win.
Silviniaco Conti has a long way to go before matching the achievements of Denman but he has done nothing wrong so far this season and was a impressive winner of the Betfair Chase back in November and a win here will set him up nicely for a crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Sadly Simonsig will miss the race registered as The Game Spirit Chase and his absence has left the race wide open with the improving Shooters Wood twice a winner at Cheltenham earlier in the season stepping up to graded company for the first time.
Over in Ireland one of the feature races of the entire Irish NH season takes place with The Hennessy Gold Cup the highlight of a excellent card at Leopardstown and Flemenstar will bid to avenge his defeat in the Lexus Chase at Christmas and it will be interesting to see if he is allowed to bowl along in front this time after being held up in the Lexus. He will again come up against Sir Des Champs a leading contender for The Cheltenham Gold Cup next month.
Warwick also stages a high class card with Paul Nicholls high class French impost Fago hoping to build on his comfortable win on his British debut at Newbury in the grade 2 Kingmaker Chase. 2011 Grand National winner Ballabriggs is also in action in the 2m4f Handicap Chase as he warms up for a 3rd attempt at the worlds greatest steeplechase at Aintree in April.
This is just the pick of the action tomorrow but there are many other high class horses entered both at the meetings reviewed above and also at Exeter on Sunday and it will be no surprise to see several of the winners from this weekend's meetings go onto Cheltenham Festival glory next month.