Flat racing takes centre stage in the UK on Saturday with QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot and in an interesting twist jump racing is at the fore on the other side of the pond in the US with the American Grand National.
Run at Far Hills, in New Jersey, this 2m5f Grade 1 race is the feature of the American jumping season and this year five European raiders will take part.
Gordon Elliott will run Clarcam and Jury Duty in an attempt to go one better than he did in 2015 when runner-up with Eshtiaal, while Charlie Longsdon’s Hammersly Lake will try and improve on his fifth placed effort of last year.
Charlie Longsdon on the merits of Hammersly Lake
Ben Pauling is sending Jaleo, with regular jockey Adrian Heskin aboard, while Emmet Mullins has Tornado Watch.
Jockey Danny Mullins, who is looking to win the race for the second successive year, has picked up the mount on the now Jack Fisher-trained Days Of Heaven, who was formerly with Nicky Henderson.
Outside of the Grand National itself it is a great day of racing.
It will be a busy weekend as I am heading back home to work this event, take in some racing from Belmont Park and then get back in time to be bright-eyed in the studio on Tuesday night for Kempton.
An angle that I have used to great success over the past two years has been backing previous winners of novice/maiden auction races in novices as they carry a smaller penalty than those who have won open novices.
In this race, West End Charmer only has to carry a 4lb penalty and based on his 2 ¾ length success at Windsor that should not stop him from going in again.
Like all of the juveniles in this race he is trying 10f for the first time, but being by Nathaniel out of a Lemon Drop Kid mare it should suit him perfectly.
Since his Windsor win he was fancied to run well again at Haydock at the beginning of September. However he went under the front of the gate and had to be withdrawn, which coming here does not worry me because if any trainer can get one right in the gate it’s Mark Johnston.
A shrewd claim for Donald McCain as he spent £8,000 to get this horse after his win in a Leicester claimer in June.
The son of Kodiac ran second on stable debut at Haydock on the Flat before easily winning a Market Rasen juvenile hurdle in August.
Off a seven-week break, Breakfast came back and ran third, with the penalty, at Market Rasen in a much hotter contest with the form working out well.
Breakfast faded after the last but was still 15 lengths ahead of the third in a race that was run over almost a furlong further than advertised due to rail movements.
He will strip fitter for that run and now Donald McCain adds a tongue tie. He still has to carry the penalty but he has the solid hurdle form in this race yet probably will not be favourite as Alan King and Dan Skelton run hurdling debutants.
This is the third running of the Listed Beckford Stakes for Fillies and Mares over 1m6f and a full field of black type seeking fillies line up. While there are several fillies who are rated higher than Altra Vita, she stands out to me.
She has been well placed by Sir Mark Prescott to win her past three starts - and six of her past seven - all in lower level handicaps, but she is a big striding filly capable of even better.
Altra Vita is also the only runner in the field who has won at Bath, including over course and distance in June.
Prescott also runs Trouble And Strife, who from stall 1 is likely to go out and make the running, making this race a true stamina test. That will suit Altra Vita, and potentially stretch a lot of rivals who are trying this trip for the first time.
As with West End Charmer, Pink Iceburg is the only winner in this novice event and she only has to carry the smaller 4lb penalty because her win at Yarmouth was in a novice auction.
That success was an impressive one as she made all of the running and did it comfortably, and she set a new juvenile track record in the process.
Since then she’s run well over 6f and then was not beaten very far in the Listed Byerley Stud Stakes (St Hughes Stakes) at Newbury last time out.
Trainer Richard Hughes has given her two months of freshening and has found this nice race for her to come back in.
I like the fact that she has an outside draw, and she is one of the very few runners in this race who has early speed and Shane Kelly should be able to get a good forward position with her.
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