Thursday’s National Hunt racing comes from Market Rasen, Thurles and Wincanton, as well as all-weather action from Chelmsford and Newcastle.
The best race of the day is Thurles’ Listed Boomerang Chase, where two former Cheltenham Festival winners are sent on retrieval missions after underwhelming 18/19 campaigns.
The odds-on favourite is imperious Arkle winner Footpad, who failed to win in three starts in his first senior chasing campaign.
He broke a blood vessel when down the field in the Ryanair, but even without his stellar novice form, his second behind Simply Ned at Leopardstown over Christmas is the standout piece of recent form possessed by this field and this looks a golden opportunity for him to regain the winning groove.
Chief market rival Balko Des Flos took the Ryanair two seasons ago, but was unable to ever really replicate that level of form last year and was flat on his seasonal reappearance at Down Royal, whilst the field is completed by Mala Beach, Jetz and rank outside Oh Me Oh My.
Market Rasen hosts a decent staying novice handicap chase- the favourite, Rocco, was a horse I quite liked last season and looked a horse going places when winning at Stratford last time out.
Ben Haslam’s River Frost was a winner over hurdles last week, whilst Buster Valentine is better than he showed at Carlisle on his chase debut and it would be no great shock if he were to leave that behind.
On a personal level, the race I’ll be keeping the biggest eye is Wincanton’s novice hurdle- where the horse I own a tiny share in, winning point-to-pointer Glynn, makes his rules debut for Nicky Henderson. He’s a short price, but hopefully the market support is justified. After a decade as a huge racing fan, I don’t think I’ve ever felt butterflies like this on the night before a race. Whatever the outcome, the main thing is that he comes home safe and sound- though I can’t deny that I’m dreaming of Cheltenham already!