Newbury hosts the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Series Final among its seven-race card this Saturday, but the headlines will be made by a jockey.
Noel Fehily calls time on his career in the saddle after riding top weight Get In The Queue for Harry Fry in the Goffs UK Spring Sale Bumper later on (17:00).
It’s a race that connections have successfully targeted before with Bullionaire in 2017 and Caribert 12 months ago. In Get In The Queue, they have a dual bumper winner who is one of two in the race for owners Paul and Clare Rooney.
The facile nature of both his successes to date make him a clear preference over Nimby, who is an each-way alternative at 10/1 with Betfair.
Five of the 14-strong field have never raced before, but Get In The Queue overcame greenness to score easing down by nine lengths on debut at Uttoxeter.
He made headway over three out and hit the front before the two marker, then stayed on to win with plenty in hand.
This was a taking debut and Get In The Queue duly followed-up at Exeter when giving 16lb and a 16-length beating to Sheshoon Sunny.
He took it up in the back straight and set off for home, with Fehily only needing to push him out for that wide-margin victory.
Get In The Queue was prominent in the Champion Bumper betting at the Cheltenham Festival off the back of that, but connections have instead come here.
This is a class 2 contest rather than an ultra-competitive Grade 1. On all known form, he looks the one to beat at 1/2 with Paddy Power and Fehily might just get that perfect final ride off into the sunset.
Valdez may be one that Got Away from Gala Ball
It’s fair to say the Doom Bar Handicap Chase (15:50) has cut-up a bit, but some key form on offer is the Greatwood Gold Cup over the same course and distance from earlier this month.
Gala Ball ran a huge race after 707 days on the sidelines when second in the extended 2m 3f graded handicap and is 5/2 favourite with Coral to gone better.
Although the Philip Hobbs trained nine-year-old has a fine record at Newbury after finishing runner-up three times here, he carries top weight.
Gala Ball chased home San Benedeto and was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths last time out, which in the circumstances was a massive effort.
He was only a couple of lengths in front of the re-opposing Valdez, however, who now meets him on 2lb better terms and got hampered during their last encounter.
There is always a danger that Gala Ball might bounce on his second start after that long absence and Alan King’s veteran has a chance of reversing the form despite being a 12-year-old.
Speaking of a swing in weights, Leicester winner Cobra De Mai is also 2lb worse off with Got Away, who was only beaten a length last time out.
This Oliver Sherwood trained six-year-old mare is the youngest of the five going to post and therefore open to most progress.
Foxtail Hill completes the quintet for Nigel Twiston-Davies, but hasn’t won at the trip in over two years. The 10-year-old gets weight all-round, but may not be the force of old.
Got Away appeals, granted a clear round, to win a match with Cobra De Mai and there may also be value in Valdez at 3/1 with William Hill getting the better of Gala Ball.
Oscar Rose among those to appeal in Mares’ Final
And so to the main event, the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Series Final (15:15). A case can be made for a few here with plenty of unexposed, progressive and/or lightly-raced mares among the 15 set to line-up.
Ante-post favourite The White Mouse looks too high in the weights when considering what the last 10 winners have carried.
Although a recent four-length victor at Doncaster, Lucy Wadham’s charge may struggle to confirm the form with Oscar Rose, who is 3lb better off at the weights and has the services of Connor Brace in the saddle.
He takes a further 7lb off the back of this Fergal O’Brien trained mare with his claim. With Oscar Rose available at three times the price of The White Mouse, the value lies in an each-way bet on the seven-year-old improving on her sixth place finish in this 12 months ago.
Her career win and place ratio is better than 50 per cent; so, at 14/1 with Unibet, Oscar Rose is well worth considering.
Also prominent in the betting for this is impressive Chepstow winner Annie Mc. The five-year-old absolutely bolted up there, but struggled to replicate the form at Exeter last time out.
Trained by Jonjo O’Neill for the Coral Champions Club, she now races off 9lb higher than when last victorious.
Although jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr takes 5lb off with his claim, he also rode Annie Mc at Chepstow. It looks as though the handicapper has got hold of her since then and this will take a career best.
Off The Hook also has claims
Scottish raider Off The Hook has a progressive profile for father-daughter duo of Nick and Lucy Alexander.
This seven-year-old was beaten 1 3/4 lengths into third in a competitive for the grade Listed contest at Haydock on her penultimate start over 2m 3f and closing on second near the finish.
That run and her subsequent half-a-length victory over Sam’s Adventure at Ayr when stepped up an extra furlong suggest Off The Hook has more to offer over two-and-a-half miles.
The runner-up has come out and won since, so she has strong form to bear in mind. Her Haydock conqueror Queenofhearts followed-up with a Grade 2 victory in the Jane Seymour at Sandown, confirming the previous run by again beating Danse Idol.
Papagana, who was a length behind Off The Hook in fourth, has made a subsequent the step up to 3m when winning a Listed affair at Doncaster.
At 12/1 with BetVictor, Off The Hook is another to seriously consider backing each-way for this. It’s a typically wide-open renewal and look out for bookmakers paying enhanced terms or extra places for this race.