Newcastle’s meeting on Saturday is always one that warrants a good deal of attention, as the Fighting Fifth Hurdle is the first real piece in the Champion Hurdle jigsaw on this side of the Irish Sea, and it features the returning heroine from last season, Epatante. Alongside one or two very high-class good ground horses, in the shape of Sceau Royal, Silver Streak and Ribble Valley. It promises to tell us plenty about Nicky Henderson’s mare.
But for a bet on the card, it is the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at 3.15 that avails the best opportunity. Being run on the same day as the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, it can often become a bit of an afterthought for many, and has been the realm of the mud-slogger for the most part. But this year could be different, as the prospect of a genuinely decent surface gives the race a different complexion.
The last time the ground was officially ‘good’ at this meeting was in 2013, and the field sizes for the last 10 renewals have been: 9, 12, 8, 9, 12, 9, 9, 5 and 8. So, opportunity knocks on both those counts as in securing an each-way bet now with 4 places could be a decent plan, and on account of the prevailing conditions, there are a few that you can quickly discount that would want it much softer.
Henry Daly’s Whatmore has long been a horse I want to keep on the right side of, and he so nearly got his season off to a perfect start at Ascot a month ago, when just bumping into the Ascot-loving Regal Encore. At 7/1 generally, and the four places for keeps, he rates as a very good prospect to go one better in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle at 3.15 on Saturday.
Back Whatmore in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase on Saturday with Betfred!
As a novice last season, Whatmore ran two almighty races when fourth in a valuable 3m handicap chase at Kempton, and then fourth again in the now-defunct Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Both set him apart as a handicap chaser to follow this season, and he so nearly delivered at Ascot. But picking apart that race, in coming through to race clear with Regal Encore, he ran another hugely creditable race.
Held up in a race where all of the others in the first eight home that day raced more prominently, at a track that very much suits prominent types, that Whatmore quickly scythed through the field to lay down a challenge was a massive effort. He displayed a slight tendency to want to go left also, which wouldn’t have suited at that track, and will be much more appropriate for the left-handed Newcastle on Saturday.
The Ascot race was also the fastest furlong-per-furlong time of that card, and Whatmore came home from three out in a quicker time than the principals in the other two chases on the card. All in all, he has a decent handicap waiting for him, and it looks like at 7/1 generally for Saturday’s Rehearsal Chase could be the time to catch him.
Of the other market principals, Pym might prefer a smaller field and steadier tempo, Aye Right is due to run at Newbury instead and On The Blind Side looked better for hurdles last time. While surely the likes of Cloudy Glen, Lord Du Mesnil, Lake View Lad, Cepage and Definitly Red would prefer a softer surface. Should Ladbrokes Trophy entry Two For Gold turn up here instead, I would see him as the main danger, but he can go a little right at his fences, and also Brave Eagle for Nicky Henderson could run well at a price.