The first ever British all-weather Group 1 takes place at Newcastle this evening in the shape of the rescheduled Vertem Futurity.
Aidan O’Brien’s battalion, including the favourite, Irish Champions Day winner Mogul, only had one rival in the initial batch of entries, but the rescheduled race has a more competitive look to it, with impressive Newmarket maiden winner Kinross now the main market rival to Donnacha O’Brien’s mount.
The Master of Ballydoyle also has Beresford Stakes winner Innisfree prominent in the betting, whilst Andrew Balding’s Kameko and John Gosden’s Verboten will also provide opposition to the O’Brien team.
Today’s feature National Hunt events in Britain come from Wetherby, where the Charlie Hall meeting kicks off with two Listed events; the Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle and the Bet365 Handicap Chase.
Nordano and Happy Diva would be my picks for those races respectively, whilst Sam Spinner returns to the scene of his victorious chase debut- the step back up in trip should favour him, though Dan Skelton’s talented Ardlethen, who claimed the scalp of Lisnagar Oscar on his first start over fences, is another exciting novice in the field.
Ireland’s main action comes from Down Royal, where outstanding novice hurdler Samcro will look to get his career back on track after a problem-filled 18/19 season.
Despite going winless last year, I thought he showed enough to suggest his talent still remains and on looks, should improve for a fence, so I’m keeping the faith with him and he’d be at the top of my shortlist for the JLT at this stage, though his stablemate Dortmund Park is no mug and should ensure that Samcro will have to run close to form to mark a winning start over the bigger obstacles.
There’s also the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle, featuring Coeur Sublime and Coko Beach, and a Grade 3 Mares’ Novice Hurdle, where Daylight Katie runs, to complete a strong card.
At Uttoxeter, there’s some mouthwatering novice chase action in the Kalahari King Beginners’ Chase, where my antepost Arkle pick, last season’s Supreme runner-up Thomas Darby, makes his chasing debut.
Olly Murphy’s 6yo will be up against some formidable opposition though, including 2018 Supreme winner Summerville Boy, Kim Bailey’s First Flow, himself a Grade 2 winner as a novice hurdler, and Warren Greatrex’s talented Western Ryder, who will need to jump better than he did on chase debut at Kelso at fortnight ago.
And across the pond at Santa Anita, the Breeders’ Cup kicks off with four juvenile Grade 1s. Leading European representatives across those races include A’Ali, Alligator Alley, Band Practice, Arizona, Albigna and Daahyeh.