Ed Chamberlin: Talking the Walk
ITV racing presenter Ed Chamberlin talks Brough Scott, Doncaster and Cheltenham with one of Robert Walford's well fancied.
ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin: Can't wait to get back in the Cheltenham parade ring
It felt like he hadn't aged a day. Brough Scott made his return to ITV Racing after a 32 year gap and was fun, engaging and fascinating company on Saturday's show.
I met up with Brough on the Friday afternoon at Ascot to assess the prospects of racing, which it quickly became apparent were very slim, and to sit in the warmth of the ITV truck to discuss ideas for the following day's programme.
With all his experience, he has already been a brilliant sounding board for me and that Friday it was just fun to listen to stories from shows in the 1970s and 80s and from his time in the the saddle, which included being touched off on the line in the first ever race over fences at Ascot.
On Saturday, Brough proved what a master of his trade he still is. He knows the game inside out and remains a voice of reason and sense rather than hype. His idea for a mid-winter Festival was fascinating and his explanation for why the King George needs to be part of a two-day meeting at Ascot compelling.
I've never known a Twitter reaction like it and I look forward to Brough being part of our coverage in the weeks, months and years to come.
It was a huge shame to lose that card at Ascot and then the races we had planned to show from Taunton were also abandoned. The upside was that we had time to debate issues and discuss the four top notch races at Haydock and implications for the Cheltenham Festival.
Neon Wolf and Bristol de Mai are both stars of the future, whilst it's impossible not to admire The New One who became the first three-time winner of the Champion Hurdle trial.
In contrast, this Saturday is going to be fast and furious. We have a spectacular day's racing in store. Nine live races on ITV4, for which we've moved the start time of the show forward to 12.45pm and will include the likes of Thistlecrack, Many Clouds, Unowhatimeanharry and Un De Sceaux at HQ.
Over at Doncaster the Sky Bet Chase is all set to be a superb race in its own right and would be the feature on many a Saturday.
My idea of the winner is Out Sam. I'm looking forward to visiting Warren Greatrex's yard on Wednesday morning to see the horse I own a small share in and get the lowdown on Out Sam.
He promised so much as a young horse but is yet to hit the heights over fences, owing to some iffy jumping, including when sent off a well-backed favourite for the Ultima Chase at Cheltenham last March. The fact he was a warmish order for such a competitive race tells you connections rate this eight-year-old and if he can put a round of jumping together, he's going to win a big handicap like the Sky Bet Chase with something to spare.
He didn't help his cause at Kempton last month, jumping left-handed at times and he ought to appreciate going this way round, though it was still a decent effort to finish third to Double Shuffle. That form needs improving on to take this, but Greatrex must have had one eye on this valuable race for a while and I'm loving his double-figure odds.
Good ground will be a bonus, and it's worth remembering his trainer was talking up his RSA chances a year ago.
Two others to keep a close eye on this weekend are Walk In The Mill and Give Me A Copper.
Walk In The Mill left backers frustrated last season, after his arrival from France, when his trainer reckons he was weak and adjusting to the game over here. He's put the record straight, winning both starts this season on soft ground at Exeter and Wincanton, going up a hefty 17lb in the process.
The Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase at Cheltenham (1.10) on Saturday is going to attract enough quality to leave Walk In The Mill on a tidy weight off 138 and you'd be hard-pressed to say he's reached the ceiling of his improvement looking at his Wincanton success.
The Grade 2 River Don Novices' Hurdle at Doncaster has unearthed a few gems over the years, and the early declarations hint at another decent renewal. Whoever runs in the race, I want to be with Paul Nicholls's seven-year-old Give Me A Copper.
He arrived in Britain with a big reputation after his Irish point/bumper wins and he couldn't have been more impressive at Exeter on his hurdling debut last month. The handy mix of speed and stamina is a potent combo when any novice goes over a 3m trip and I will be surprised if he is beaten here.
All his form has coincided with soft and heavy going, but most horses by Presenting tend to favour better ground and it's exciting to think he might even improve on a sounder surface.
Before the action starts, Facebook Live could be a lively watch this Friday evening. Messrs Chapman and Bell will be flying. I may be hiding. That's after Matt howled Neon Wolf from the rooftops, while a couple of Fridays ago Oli Bell tipped Joe Perry at 80/1 each-way in the British Masters. (Part of me is relieved he didn't win the final!)
There aren't many better judges than our commentator Richard Hoiles, who also tipped us off that Politologue could be a weak finisher. How right he was.
In fairness, well done all three of them and Facebook Live should be a lot of fun again live from our hotel bar near Cheltenham at 7.30pm on Friday. Join us if you can.
Then on Saturday it's all eyes on Cheltenham and Doncaster. Two star guests are set to join Oli Bell on the Opening Show at 10am, one of which will be Nina Carberry who will also be with us during the afternoon to reveal the secret to riding the cross-country course.
It will be brilliant to have her as part of the team for what is by far and away the best day's racing so far this season. I cannot wait.
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