One of Doncaster’s big days takes place on Saturday with the race formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase taking centre stage. Here is Graeme Rodway with his best bets.
The Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle (2.40) is always one of the chief supporting races on Great Yorkshire Chase day and this season it looks worth taking a chance on Twig.
The Ben Pauling-trained eight-year-old is a smart chaser who has won three of his four starts over fences and he has reverted to hurdling without having any issues on his last two outings.
Twig was second in a hot contest behind the useful stayer Shearer in October at Cheltenham and made short work of easier opposition when long odds-on at Kempton on his latest start.
Improvement will be needed now he is stepped up significantly in grade, but his experience could prove key in a race that is usually a gruelling test of stamina and he might know too much for some promising but green rivals. He is a decent price at the overnight odds, too.
The 3m handicap chase (3.15) formerly known as the Great Yorkshire was won by Windsor Avenue 12 months ago off a mark of 144 and he has a chance here from a 2lb lower rating.
He is a big price because he has been pulled up on four of his five starts since last year’s victory, showing absolutely nothing on those occasions. However, he was beaten by just six and a quarter lengths by top-class L’Homme Presse in the Rehearsal at Newcastle in November.
Windsor Avenue is now 2lb lower than when recording that excellent performance and it went a long way to proving that he is still capable of mixing it at this level at the age of 11.
He simply loves flat, left-handed galloping tracks like this and a return to this race would almost certainly have been the aim since Newcastle. You can ignore his last run at Wetherby.
The following 3m handicap chase (3.50) is another wide-open contest, but The Macon Lugnatic is well treated on his best hurdles form and can break his duck over fences.
The Ben Pauling-trained runner has scored twice over hurdles at this course and has also run several good races in defeat here, so he will probably have had a race at this track as his main aim for the season. This event might just be it and he is 6lb lower than for his last success too.
That did come over hurdles and he hasn’t proved quite as effective in seven starts over fences, but his best effort at this discipline came at this course last year when he was beaten just two and a quarter lengths into third in a 3m2f handicap. The return here will clearly suit.
He had a confidence-boosting spin back over hurdles at Huntingdon over Christmas, which should have put him spot on for this, and a bold bid is expected now he is back over fences.