My Drogo – Premier Novices’ Hurdle, 13:30 Kelso
My Drogo made the perfect start to his hurdling career at Newbury in November, quickening smartly on the run-in to land the spoils by a length and a quarter. Previous winners of that race include the likes of Buveur d’Air (2015), Lostintranslation (2017) and Bright Forecast (2018) – all of whom went on to win or finish placed in Grade 1 company as novice hurdlers – and it will be no surprise if My Drogo proves capable of making an impact at the top level before the end of the season, such is the impression he created when following up in the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot last time. Held up in the early stages, My Drogo travelled smoothly and then gradually asserted after the last to win by two and three quarter lengths from Llandinabo Lad and Soaring Glory (who won the Betfair Hurdle on his next start), having to work harder than at Newbury but ultimately well on top at the finish. Admittedly, this will be tougher given that he must concede 5 lb to some useful rivals, but he remains with potential after only two starts over hurdles and should take plenty of beating before hopefully getting the opportunity to test the waters in Grade 1 company at Aintree.
Killer Clown – Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase, 13:50 Newbury
Paul Nicholls could saddle up to three runners as he seeks a remarkable tenth win in this race since 2006, but preference is for one of the more progressive contenders amongst the 21 entries in Killer Clown, who has improved significantly with every start over fences and showed useful form when last seen dominating a novice handicap at Kempton on Boxing Day. There was much to like about the way he did things at Kempton, jumping and travelling fluently on the heels of the leaders before quickly putting the race to bed in the straight, passing the post with seven and a half lengths to spare over Falco Blitz. The first two pulled 22 lengths clear of the rest and the runner-up gave the form a boost when going one place better on his next start at Southwell, a race he would have won very easily but for a bad mistake at the last. That all suggests that Killer Clown is full value for the 15 lb hike in the weights he was given for that Kempton victory; he’s a well-made gelding who really looks to be getting the hang of chasing. He is certainly open to more improvement and should give another good account in what looks a typically competitive renewal of this valuable handicap.
🤡 No joke about this performance— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 26, 2020
Killer Clown pings the last & opens his account over fences with an easy victory in this £17,900 event for @ELavelleracing & @Adamkwedge at @kemptonparkrace pic.twitter.com/49IeNfw6xk
Cloth Cap – Grimthorpe Handicap Chase, 15:30 Doncaster
Cloth Cap and Kimberlite Candy – two of the ante-post favourites for the Grand National – are both likely to be in action on Saturday, making their final appearances on a racecourse before the main event at Aintree five weeks later. Kimberlite Candy is entered in the Premier Chase at Kelso, while Cloth Cap is entered in both that race and the Grimthorpe at Doncaster, which looks the most likely option given his preference for a sound surface (the going is currently ‘good’ on Town Moor but ‘soft’ at Kelso). Cloth Cap owes his prominent position in the betting for the Grand National to his impressive victory in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury last time, where he seemed to be transformed by the application of cheekpieces under an attacking ride. He jumped superbly at the head of affairs and was never in any danger in the straight, sticking to his task well to win by 10 lengths from Aye Right and The Conditional. That win all but guaranteed Cloth Cup a spot in the field for the Grand National (needs only six to come out), where he will be attempting to give owner Trevor Hemmings a record-breaking fourth success in the race. Incidentally, Hemmings also won the Grimthorpe in 2008 with Cloudy Lane, who was then sent off the 7/1 joint favourite for the Grand National (ultimately finished sixth). The owner will be hoping Cloth Cap can advertise his Aintree claims in similar fashion on Saturday.
⭐️ A magnificent round of jumping— Racing TV (@RacingTV) November 28, 2020
😍 Cloth Cap is all class in the Ladbrokes Trophy as he jumps his rivals silly to win in convincing fashion for @JonjoONeill, @tommyscu & Trevor Hemmings at @NewburyRacing pic.twitter.com/5QLFeFiJ1n
Hitman – BetVictor Novices’ Chase, 15:40 Newbury
Formerly trained in France by Guillaume Macaire (for whom he won a juvenile hurdle on his final start) before joining Paul Nicholls, Hitman could hardly have been more impressive when making a successful chasing debut after 10 months off and a breathing operation at Ffos Las in November. He travelled powerfully in mid-division and quickly had things sewn up after taking over early in the straight, overcoming a bad mistake at the second last to win by 30 lengths without needing to come off the bridle. He was then stepped up significantly in grade for the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown the following month, where he confirmed himself a smart performer by being beaten only two and a half lengths behind Allmankind (a leading contender for the Sporting Life Arkle), whilst also leaving the impression he’d be suited by a longer trip. He was duly stepped up to two and a half miles for the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase back at Sandown last time but sadly didn’t get the chance to show what he can do, falling at the twelfth whilst still going well. He remains a bright prospect, however, and could put himself in line for another crack at the highest level by winning at Newbury on Saturday, where he could come up against the likes of Dickie Diver and Umbrigado in a warm-looking novice.
Allmankind - a very exciting prospect— Racing TV (@RacingTV) December 5, 2020
🏇 Two runs over fences
🥇 Two wins
🏆 Grade One Henry VIII Novices' Chase
A spectacular jumping performance from Allmankind to plunder Grade One honours & remain unbeaten over fences for @harryskelton89 & @DSkeltonRacing at @Sandownpark pic.twitter.com/fO5GyKKLDW