A wonderful meeting at Doncaster today and the ground, almost unbelievably, is given out as good to soft ahead of their card which opens with a match between the enigmatic Mr Mole and former Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby (1.20) in the 2m Novice Chase.
The latter was taken out of a race last week because of soft ground but connections are almost obliged to run today given they need to get more experience into their 9-year-old before next month’s Festival.
Mr Mole wouldn’t be inconvenienced if the ground deteriorated overnight and, if on a going day, could make Harry Fry’s stable star pull out all the stops; a fascinating opener.
We haven’t seen the best of Gone Too Far (1.50) over hurdles yet despite winning two of his three starts over obstacles.
If this were a handicap he would receive 7lbs from Nicky Henderson’s Vaniteux but that one had his limitations, seemingly, exposed at Kempton last time and preference is for the Alan King runner who remains a horse of considerable potential.
The Novices’ Hurdle sees the debut over timber of First Mohican (2.25) who was just short of top class on the level for the late, great Sir Henry Cecil.
Connections have suggested they need to get a couple of runs into him before the Festival but this looks an ideal starting point. He is currently 20/1 at BetVictor (Non Runner Free Bet) for the Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham and this should be a most informative novice hurdle.
Sue Smith has her string in great form and, on the day of the opening night of the Premier League of Darts at the Echo Arena Liverpool, what a fitting winner Fill The Power (3.00) would be in the 3m handicap chase.
The selection would, arguably, prefer better ground but he has bits of form on soft ground that suggests he is very well handicapped and he is entitled to improve on his reappearance at Haydock last month. He can win a big race between now and the end of the season.
The 32Red Juvenile Hurdle at Huntingdon can go to Baradari (2.50) from the bang in form yard of Venetia Williams; disappointing at Newbury on his British debut this French import won on heavy ground back at the Berkshire track and he is taken to enhance his Triumph hurdle prospects in the feature race of the day.
Meydan stage another top class flat card and the opener can go to My Freedom (3.15) well drawn and sure to come on for his run last month from a 4lb higher mark when he didn’t get the best of runs.
Ihtimal (4.25) is a confident selection in the UAE 1000 Guineas in a race where Godolphin look to hold all the aces with stablemate Wedding Ring a big danger having been backed off the boards when landing the Trial here last month.
I favour Ihtimal, however, a winner of the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster back in September and currently a 20/1 shot at BetVictor for the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in May.