HAPPY New Year! After some wonderful festive racing, the weather gods have finally begun to have their way. Saturday’s Tolworth card at Sandown has already gone and there are nagging doubts over several other weekend cards. Quality is sparse but hopefully Wincanton and Newcastle will survive the elements on Saturday. Paul Nicholls is enjoying the sort of spell he must have dreamed about at the start of the season. He is building a Cheltenham Festival team to be envied and is planning a major assault on the Grand National, led by the wonderful Tidal Bay. Today TAGRITA should be another winner for the Nicholls juggernaut in the first at Wincanton. She bolted up at Exeter and should follow up as long as this race doesn’t come too quickly.
The second division of the 2m 6f novice hurdle should go to HARRY’S FAREWELL who was well backed at Fontwell before running a fair third to Cole Harden.
Fergal O’Brien is another trainer enjoying an excellent time of it and BALZACCIO is interesting in the 2.05 at Wincanton. Formerly trained by Alan King, Balzaccio is 14lb lower than when he last ran over fences and will strip fitter from a decent pipe opener over hurdles. He does prefer decent ground but could go well if he goes through the conditions.
Irish raider CARRYBRIDGE caught my eye at Sedgefield the other week when she finished third in a decent looking bumper. She makes her hurdling debut in the opener at Newcastle and should go very close. Her trainer has been placing his runners to great effect across the north in recent weeks.
Finally ETXALAR jumped beautifully at Carlisle the other day and could follow up in the 1.40 for Lucinda Russell. He has only been raised 5lb and the longer trip should also suit.