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.
Midnight Chase could try to continue his superb record at Cheltenham in the £45,000 Grade Three Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase (1.55pm), one of the highlights of the first day of The International on Friday.
The Neil Mulholland-trained 10-year-old has won five of his nine starts at the home of jump racing, including victories in the Grade Two Argento Chase on Festival Trials Day in January and the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase in December, 2010.
He was fifth in the 2011 renewal of the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup and stayed on to take third on his seasonal return in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on November 3
This week Mulholland said: “Midnight Chase has been in good form since his run in the Charlie Hall Chase and it all depends on the ground whether or not he takes his chance in the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase.
“He’ll run if it’s good to soft ground or better as he won the Argento Chase on good to soft but we won’t be running him on soft.
“He was giving Silviniaco Conti five pounds in the Charlie Hall and will probably improve more for his first run compared to previous years because he is a bit cleverer these days.
“He kept on galloping at Wetherby but he was never happy on the ground and, although I always want to win, you would have to be very happy with the run.
“I think he likes the undulations and turns at Cheltenham and he has just really taken to the track.
“He has carried big weights in big handicaps around Cheltenham before and has proven he is very tough although he obviously has to do it all again.”
Nicky Henderson was over the moon with Sprinter Sacre’s bloodless win in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday, beating Kumbershwar by 15 lengths with the highly regarded Sanctuaire held back in third.
The 4/11 favourite is now 1/2 with Ladbrokes to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
His trainer said: “He has certainly got the wow factor. It’s been a long summer and a long autumn waiting for this.
“We knew there was going to be a head-to-head and I have been petrified about Sanctuaire.”
Barry Geraghty said: “He was faultless. It’s very rare you see a horse as good looking as that be as good as he is. He’s like Concorde.”
Captain Conan (4/7 fav) never put a foot wrong taking the Henry VIII Novices Chase for the Henderson camp. His trainer said: “He was great. He rather bullied them into submission with a very powerful display of jumping and galloping.”
My note-pad horse for this week is Lilac Belle who showed an enthusiastic display when fourth behind the 33/1 shock winner Shilpa at Fakenham on Monday in the 2m Handicap Hurdle.
Alex Hale’s dual C&D winner had every chance three furlong’s out then faded on the flat. This this run would have blown the cobwebs away and a return to this track on New Year’s day could well be on the cards for the six-year old.
Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Ruby is all set for his return to the track on Saturday in the Stanjames.com International Hurdle at Cheltenham. Harry Fry’s Champion Hurdle hero has won first time out for the past two seasons and my mole in the yard reports him in tip-top shape for his comeback and hard to beat this weekend at Prestbury Park.
Walkon is clearly a contender for the Paul Stewart Ironspine Charity Gold Cup (Handicap Chase) at Cheltenham this weekend.
At Wolverhampton on Saturday Light Shine in the 4.20 is expected to go very close for Peter Chapel-Hyam and in the 6.20 Golden Flower will be hard to beat with SDS riding.