The first two weekends of March always feel like the freezing winter before the technicolour springtime of the Cheltenham Festival, but there’s still a solid Saturday TV card to get stuck in to.
Big money handicaps at Newbury and Doncaster are the order of the day, while a Listed Mares hurdle from the latter course offers an opportunity to get the afternoon off to a suitably classy, and more importantly, winning, start.
Henry Daly’s mare may be rated nine and 10lbs inferior to The Organist and Yes I Am (who she faces down off level weights) respectively, but unlike that twosome the form of her most recent run has been paid more than one compliment.
Caity’s Joy, two-and-half lengths second to the selection at Huntingdon that day, went out and smashed up a mares novice hurdle by nine lengths on her next outing.
Midnight Silver, meanwhile, 30l behind Briery Belle in fourth, also came out and won her sole subsequent engagement to date, while even 66l fifth Miss Tobgabezi has finished a 7l fourth since.
The recent roll of honour in the Greatwood Gold Cup is dominated by representatives of Paul Nicholls, with seven of the last 11 winners (including six of the last eight) hailing from his Ditcheat yard.
Art Mauresque is 3lbs lower than when running creditably for a long way in the biggest handicap chases at Cheltenham’s November and December meetings and looks the stable’s first string here.
Stepping down in trip should prove ideal for a horse who ran so well for so long to finish three lengths adrift of Irish Cavalier (now rated 153) earlier this term, while his chances will be improved even further if the ground continues to dry out.
Unlike fellow rivals The Druids Nephew and The Last Samuri, Alan King’s animal doesn’t have to worry about leaving his Grand National on Town Moor – he isn’t entered.
A past scorer at Donny and a winner on his last completed run (fell at the second last time out) there’s sure to be plenty under the bonnet for what is certain to be a gruelling test.
Fifth in the four miler at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, he’s also 11lbs better off with Drop Out Joe for a 16l defeat at Chepstow earlier this season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.