Adam Norman: Avenue set to prove himself streets ahead at Doncaster

Wed 11 Dec 2019

On-course punter and Racing TV pundit Adam Norman picks out a handful of horses likely to be carrying his cash later this week, including a horse who "could be the star the North has been waiting for".

I’ll be at Doncaster - weather permitting - for a double-header this weekend and their Saturday card looks particularly tasty, although the racing does tend to cut up there, especially the chases.

Clearly many eyes, particularly those watching Racing TV, will be on Cheltenham on Saturday but the Grade Two Bet365 December Novices' Chase should be interesting, even if it wouldn’t surprise me if it ultimately boils down to being a match between Sam Spinner and Windsor Avenue, with both reported on course to clash.

Just 6lb splits the pair on official ratings over fences but that only tells the half of it, as they go into the race on very different career trajectories.

Sam Spinner could hardly have been a better staying hurdler, and connections have probably taken the correct choice in sending him over the larger obstacles, while he is young enough to adapt his jumping technique.

That hasn’t really been the case in his first two starts over the big ones at Wetherby though, and one suspects he will always find his own way of getting from A to B, relying on his big engine to keep him competitive.

At this stage I feel it’s only time before he gets found out over fences, his propensity to edge right at the obstacles hardly likely to prove the secret to success round the ever turning Town Moor circuit.

By contrast, Windsor Avenue could be the star the North has been waiting for if his latest victory at Carlisle is anything to go by.

The vanquished Ballymoy has hardly done the form any favours but he wouldn’t necessarily have the scope to make a better chaser than hurdler, and it was more the manner of the victory that set Brian Ellison’s horse apart.

Watch again as Windsor Avenue makes a big impression at Carlisle last time

His jumping at speed was quite something, and you could easily envisage him regularly out-jumping Sam Spinner before being reined back by Brian Hughes in a bid to conserve energy for the final push.

Windsor Avenue is bred like a true stayer but until he goes and proves he can do it at three miles there will always be a niggle at the back of your mind, especially against such a gritty battler as Sam Spinner.

Even if there are other runners in the race I still see it coming down to whether San Spinner has given away too much ground by making niggly errors and compensating for an inherent lack of scope by going right all the time.

The more I think about it, the more I hope Windsor Avenue lays down a performance that will truly mark him as something a little bit special.

Bet365 sponsor two handicap chases on the card, a 0-140 over about 2m3f and the other a 0-150 over just shy of three miles and I’m hoping the doubly-entered The Dubai Way is confirmed for the lower grade race by trainer Charlie Mann.

The seven-year-old bagged a notable four-timer over timber a couple of seasons back but lost his way in his first season over fences when former trainer Henry Whittington’s yard was struggling for consistency.

However, he looked in good form when returning from a break to pick up an admittedly weaker race at Wetherby last month, but this is a horse that only just does enough and I can see Doncaster’s long straight drawing out his stamina, particularly if the rain does get into the ground.

I like another horse entered in that race, the Oliver Greenall-trained Twotwothree, a really progressive chaser who has gone up 24lb for two decisive successes this autumn.

They were both over shorter trips though, and while he does have a point-to-point background he looks to have plenty of speed and a 0-120 at Warwick on Thursday over two miles looks ideal for the hat-trick bid.

I used to be put off by horses going up a bundle in the weights but often when they pick up a winning habit it can pay to stick with them – providing there’s still some value in the price.

One horse that caught the eye in no uncertain terms last time out was the Alex Hales-trained Rough Night, who has three entries later this week including the Warwick race just mentioned.

However, the way he was taken off his feet in a hot-looking contest at Wincanton last time suggests a return to slightly further is the order of the day, with the first race on Donny’s Friday card as good an opening as any (Twotwothree also entered).

Later on that card sees the return of another Wetherby winner in Mr Scrumpy, who travelled like a horse some way ahead of his mark when landing a competitive looking handicap for Sam Spinner’s trainer Jedd O’Keeffe.

A 6lb rise in the weights shouldn’t prevent a follow-up despite this being what could turn out to be a competitive little heat. Make no mistake, he is a decent-looking prospect.

Mr Scrumpy made a big impression on our correspondent when winning here at Wetherby

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