Top racing tipster Kevan Minter, known as The Colonel, gives Mercury readers his top tips for the week ahead.
Kevan, who lives in Stamford, is trackside most days and is regularly on television.
Colin Tizzard’s smart Chaser Hey Big Spender is on course to make his seasonal reappearance in the £40,000 Betfair Don’t Settle For Less Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase (1.45pm) on Boxing Day, the first day of Wetherby’s Welcome To Yorkshire Christmas Meeting.
The nine-year-old was last seen shouldering top-weight to victory in the Grade Three Classic Chase at Warwick in January when conceding upwards of 13lb to his 12 rivals. He also captured the Listed Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle under a welter burden in November, 2011.
Tizzard told me this week: “He did some fast work yesterday morning and Wetherby should be his first race.
“He picked up a small injury in February and he came back in a bit later than the others. He was getting better and better last season and his win at Warwick was probably a career best performance.”
Another likely participant is Middleham Park Racing’s Junior. The versatile nine-year-old, trained by David Pipe, has annexed notable prizes in both spheres and stayed on strongly to win the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle recently in gutsy fashion and could well make the frame for the West Country stable.
The prestigious Grade Three contest, run over three miles and a furlong, was first staged in 1957 and boasts an excellent roll of honour with subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Forgive’ N Forget (1984) and The Thinker (1986) among the winners. Yahoo, who chased home Desert Orchid in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup, scored in 1987, while the Ferdy Murphy-trained Truckers Tavern, second to Best Mate in the 2003 Cheltenham Gold Cup, took the spoils in 2004.
Local handler Malcolm Jefferson captured last year’s renewal with 33/1 chance According To Pete.
It was a sad day at Hereford on Sunday when the racecourse was shut down after racing.
Jim Allen, assistant director at Hereford, said: “We’re preparing to shut down today.
“Although the racecourse will be maintained by two full-time ground staff, as it is now, we don’t expect to race next year. As for 2014, I’d be hopeful but so many factors are involved.”
My eye-catcher for this week has to be Master Of Disguise.
Second at Wolverhampton on Saturday night ,the 6yo ran a blinder with the tongue-tie re-fitted. He has slipped down the handicap to a nice mark and has to be watched closely over the next few weeks.
The smart Flemenstar (10/11 fav) won in good style at Navan on Sunday in the Irish Form Book Fortria Chase and now goes straight into the Cheltenham Gold Cup with a 7/1 price from Coral.
Winning trainer Peter Casey said: “I’m thrilled to bits with this win. He was only about 80 per cent fit today. We’d done just enough work with him to get him here today but he blew up down the back.
“He’ll go to Punchestown next for the John Durkan and after that we’ll step him up to three miles.”
Keiran Burke’s 7yo Hunt Ball, at 6/1, is the bet for the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday with the hot favourite Grands Crus the one to beat.
In the Racing Post Handicap Hurdle on the Sunday, Nicky Henderson’s Darlan at 9/2 will be well fancied to go close. A big outsider I fancy to run into a place at 40/1 is Blue Bajan.
Paul Nicholls’ Big Buck’s is out for the season along with Al Ferof after both were found to have suffered tendon injuries.
The big two are unlikely to run again this season.
The trainer said on Tuesday: “Big Buke’s has a tiny tear in one of his legs so the best way is to let nature heal that. It’s not life-threatening.”
At Ascot on Saturday, Ranjaan is fancied to go well with the Paul Nicholls stable in form in the 3.10 Ladbroke (Handicap) Hurdle.
The nap this weekend has to be Ulck De Lin in the 3.40 at Ascot.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls rates the 4yo very highly and Ruby Walsh has the steering job.
At Lingfield on the polytrack surface the Andrew Balding trained El Buen Turista is the clear form pick in the 12.20
Call me on 07850602524 for news of my private racing service.