Three races not to be missed this weekend
Cheltenham on C4: at last, the jumps is back
PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos) Three races not to be missed this weekend By Tom Kerr 6:02PM 21 OCT 2016
A packed weekend of Flat and jump racing is in prospect and these are the three races you absolutely don't want to miss:
Okay, the jumps season has been heating up for weeks now but for the first time since April Channel 4 opens its coverage with a race that's not just over fences, it's at the home of jumps, Cheltenham, as well.
That would be reason alone to savour the clash but the 3m1f handicap chase features a host of familiar names, not least the 13-year-old Any Currency, who won the Cross Country at the festival in March only to be controversially disqualified months later following a positive test for a painkiller.
Many of the powerhouse yards are represented – Henderson, Nicholls, Tizzard and Pipe – but one of the most interesting contenders is Cogry. He had a tough time last season including being pulled up at Chepstow when sent off favourite for the Welsh National, but is on his lowest mark for almost two years and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies really has his squad rolling right now.
Whoever wins, mark this: the jumps is back.
Before we say goodbye to the Flat there is the small matter of the last Group 1 of the season in Britain. A key Classic pointer won in the past by such luminaries as Motivator ('04), Authorized ('06), St Nicholas Abbey ('09) and Camelot ('11), will this year's winner turn out to be a star like the above or a flop like last year's winner Marcel, who ran once subsequently and finished dead last?
The irresistible Aidan O'Brien has the odds-on favourite Yucatan, who has been smashed to smithereens in the ante-post betting having been 5-1 earlier in the week.
Andrea Atzeni has won the Trophy three years on the trot and partners Rivet for William Haggas, who enjoyed a brilliant September but whose successes have slowed considerably this month – his strike-rate for October (up to Friday) was just 12 per cent, against 35 per cent in September.
Marcel and Andrea Atzeni win last year's Racing Post Trophy
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
David Elsworth, meanwhile, has his team in good form with three wins from eight runners in the past fortnight and saddles Sir Dancealot. Seven of the last ten runnings of the Trophy were won by favourites but 33-1 shot Marcel bucked that trend last year and Elsworth, who toppled Golden Horn with Arabian Queen in last year's Juddmonte, knows how to stage an upset.
Cheltenham might take the spotlight this week but it's the Old Roan at Aintree that is comfortably the weekend's best race over jumps.
Just a look down the roll of honour is enough to get you buzzing for the winter sport: Kauto Star, Albertas Run, Wishfull Thinking and of course three-time winner Monet's Garden, after whom the name now takes its name.
This year's field looks set to add a first rate name to that list too. We've got Hennessy winner Smad Place, Champion Chase winner Sire De Grugy and Melling Chase winner God's Own. The seven-horse field between it has won 22 Graded races, nine of them Grade 1s (and five of them belonging to the mighty Sire De Grugy).
If all seven turn up at Aintree this will comfortably be the most interesting race of the season so far.