Easter To Come Early For Nicholls At Doncaster
Sky Bet Chase
Only the brave need apply for Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster (3.15pm) – a stamina-sapping 3m event set which will test each of the runners lining-up.
Amongst them are a couple of interesting contenders from the Paul Nicholls yard, which has been making a habit of winning the big races this term.
Nicholls’ main hope is the 7yo, Easter Day (6/1), a second season chaser who was a 2m6f handicap winner last season, prior to returning with a 3l third last month. That would have blown the cobwebs away, and with a chase record of 2-4, there should be more to come.
Nicholls also has Cowards Close (12/1), another second season chaser with a nice low weight who arrives having been third in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham on his return (3m2f, good to soft). It will be interesting to see who Nick Schofield opts to ride, which could provide punters with the biggest clue.
Philip Hobbs’ 7yo, If In Doubt (8/1) is another of the leading fancies, who won a small beginners’ chase at Catterick last month (3m1f, good to soft) and is progressive. This will be a big step up, though, and he’ll need to be very good to win a race of this nature on just his fourth chase outing.
If In Doubt has a decent weight of 10st11lb, though, which has proven to be the right half of the handicap down the years…
Of the last 8 Sky Bet Chase winners (only 8 renewals since 2003)…
8 were 7-10yo’s
8 had 3 handicap chase wins or fewer
7 carried 11st2lb or lower
7 were officially rated 136 or lower
7 were non-favourites
7 had 10 handicap chase runs or fewer
7 were non-winners last time out
6 dropped in trip from last time out
9 arrived via Cheltenham or Chepstow
P Nicholls won it twice
Another at the right end of the handicap is Jonjo O’Neill’s Lost Legend (16/1), who only just scrapped home in a 2m4f handicap at Kempton two weeks ago. He could be on the exposed side, however, having had 13 chase outings, and will want the rain to stay away.
Of those in the top half of the handicap, Philip Hobbs has another of interest in Royal Player (11/1), a winner of his last two races, both 3m handicaps on good to soft ground. He is 10lb higher here than 19 days ago, but did show a nice turn of foot that day and may have more in the locker.
Night In Milan is another fairly exposed (14/1), but did win a similar valuable handicap over 3m2f here 10 months ago, and was beaten only a head by Grandads House (16/1) over C&D last month. Night In Milan will be 4lb better with that rival on Saturday, and has to rate good each-way value.
It’s hard to ignore the good form of Paul Nicholls in the big weekend races his season, and his Easter Day has the look of a potential improver ahead of the handicapper, and may have been laid out for this event.