With the Irish Grand National having dominated proceedings over the Easter weekend, where Jessica Harrington claimed her first win with 9-2 favourite Our Duke, just a month after having won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, there is yet more high quality races to look forward to over the coming days, with action from both Cheltenham and Newbury gaining much of the attention among bookmakers and punters. The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Chase take priority at Cheltenham on Thursday, while the Bet365 Handicap from Newmarket looks an exciting race, despite just seven runners.
Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Class 1 – Cheltenham – 14:05
Trainers Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls renew their rivalry at Cheltenham on Thursday, with Casablanca Mix currently heading the betting for the three-time British jump racing champion. The French five-year-old has three wins from his last five outings, however Nicholls’ Coillte Lass is likely to provide more than ample competition. The Irish seven-year-old has four wins to his name throughout his career, the biggest of which came in the Totepool Chip & Pin Betting Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over a similar distance at Taunton back in December. However, with Colin Tizzard, Oliver Sherwood and Alan King having all entered horses for the race at Cheltenham, there is little to choose between the favourites. Dusky Legend performed admirably to finish third at the same course just a matter of weeks ago, while On Demand could threaten despite failing to finish in the same race.
Bet365 Handicap – Class 2 – Newmarket – 14:25
Despite having been out of action since May last year, Tabarrak is the favourite for Thursday’s feature race at Newmarket, having looked a quality performer when winning at Ascot. Now aged four, the Richard Hannon trainer horse has been gelded and should go well on his return. However, Salateen is also a solid performer at this level, with the David O’Meara trained five-year-old having enjoyed a productive start to the year following wins at Meydan and Wolverhampton. Meanwhile, Charlie Fellows’ Accession made a winning return in this race last year, and is likely to be among the frontrunners once again on Thursday. Elsewhere, the likes of Castle Harbour and Qeyaadah cannot be ruled out, with the former having won his first two starts of the season, although a disappointing run at Doncaster last month places him in some uncertainty.
Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase – Class 1 – Cheltenham- 14:40
Paul Nicholls and jockey Sam Twiston-Davies team up again at Cheltenham on Thursday, with the duo hoping that favourite Antartica De Thaix can live up to his pre-race billing. The French eight-year-old has won his last three outings, including the 188bet Lady Protectress Mares’ Chase at Huntingdon. Elsewhere, Magic Money has been well backed for trainer Warren Greatrex, with the 10-year-old having won well at Fontwell last time out. Meanwhile, Plaisir D’amour could go close having failed to finish outside the top three in his last three races, including two victories at Newbury and Wetherby. For those looking for a potential outsider, Briery Belle and Bagging Turf are perhaps worth an each-way bet.