By Andy Stephens
Devoted fans of Prince will be familiar with one of his lesser-known songs called “Joy In Repetition” where, perhaps predictably, he sings that particular line more than once.
There could be joy in repetition at Newbury on Saturday, too, because Altior and Native River seek repeat wins in the Grade Two contests. Just like 12 months ago, they face a small number of opponents and will go off at cramped odds.
Nicky Henderson talked about the prospect of Altior getting beaten in the Betfair Exchange Chase when he played host to the media on Tuesday and, judged purely on ratings, the two-mile star has little in hand of the racefit Politologue.
However, it is hard to forget how Altior trounced his rivals in this race a year ago and, while he may not be a betting proposition, it will be disappointing if the Champion Chase favourite comes up short.
Native River may be the more vulnerable of the pair. For more of his race, read below:
Native River is odds-on to repeat his win of 12 months ago and if the Gold Cup third brings his A-Game to the track then he is going to be hard to beat.
However, he is unlikely to be fully tuned up for his belated return and Richard Johnson will face a dilemma when it comes to tactics from the front: if he goes hard his mount will probably get tired on ground likely to get softer before the off but if he goes steady then he will be vulnerable to rivals with more speed.
Saphir Du Rheu is also returning from a lengthy absence - he’s been off since a fall in the Grand National - and, like Native River, is also likely to be using this to get his eye in for another tilt at the Gold Cup.
That leaves us with the smart and racefit Cloudy Dream. The ratings suggest he has a bit to find and his resolution has been questioned but his latest defeat at the hands of Definitly Red looks better than it did at the time and I can imagine a scenario where he is able to do most, if not all, his work on the bridle.
A tremendously competitive renewal of the Betfair Hurdle and it is bad enough trying to determine which of Nicky Henderson’s challengers is his best candidate without considering the other 19 in the field.
Zalvados made the most of an easy opportunity at Ludlow last time but it is his solid efforts to make the frame in big-field handicaps at Aintree and Cheltenham in the past year that draw him to me.
He ran really well on both occasions without either race showing him to maximum advantage and I reckon combination of softening ground and Newbury will suit him ideally.
The presence of several front-runners should ensure the strong traveller gets the end-to-end gallop that suits him and I like the fact Oliver Greenall is equipping him with first-time blinkers and that he is also using 7lb conditional Ross Turner.
Moon Racer’s fragility has been well documented and it may be he has completely gone at the game but the 2015 Champion Bumper winner has always had a touch of class and his record when fresh is excellent. He went off 10-1 for the Champion Hurdle last term, yet is available at 25-1 here off a mark of 142.
The Jo Hughes-trained five-year-old had not shown much before his last start and went off at 33-1, but he won with authority against some fair yardsticks.
There was certainly no suggestion of it being any fluke, with the step up from two miles undoubtedly a factor in his improvement.
He steps up in trip a bit more on Saturday but it looked a case of the further the better at Chepstow and he is one to keep the right side of.
Supporters of Indy Five, me included, did not get much of a run for their money when he ran at Newbury’s last meeting and fell at the second.
Unperturbed, I’m giving him another chance because he had previously won in great style on his chasing bow at Taunton, where his bold and accurate jumping was a feature of his performance.
Indy Five will hopefully have learnt from his tumble and get in the kind of rhythm he did on his penultimate start. He is 12lb higher than on that occasion but is lightly raced and open to improvement.
Andy Stephens How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
2.25 Newbury: Cloudy Dream £2 win at a generally available 9-4
3.35 Newbury: Zalvados £5 each-way at a general 33-1
3.35 Newbury: Moon Racer £1 each-way on at a general 33-1
£1 Win Lucky Fifteen: Place bet with any firm offering 33-1 about Zalvados
2.25 Newbury: Cloudy Dream
3.50 Newbury: Zalvados
3.40 Uttoxeter: Diablo De Rouhet
4.10 Newbury: Indy Five
Plus £2.50 each-way on Zalvados at a general 33-1
Select any odd to add a bet