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Lucky Loader’s ITV Racing Preview – Cheltenham and Doncaster 

This Saturday, the ITV cameras go to Cheltenham for Trials Day as well as an exciting card at Doncaster featuring the Great Yorkshire Chase. Lucky Loader gives his selections on an intriguing afternoon of racing.

“I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that this can be his Gold Cup”

1.15 Cheltenham – Hitman (Each Way)

Cases can be made for several in this competitive handicap, but I’m willing to take a chance on Hitman each-way. On jockey bookings, he looks to be the stable’s second string, with Harry Cobden preferring his stablemate Il Ridotto, but that doesn’t put me off. I think Hitman’s third-place finish in the Ryanair Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival behind Envoi Allen and Shishkin is the best piece of form on offer. The eight-year-old hasn’t been seen since a disappointing effort at Aintree in October and he does need to bounce back here after a wind operation. However, his trainer, Paul Nicholls has a good record in this race, winning it twice since 2014 and the 5lbs that conditional Freddie Gingell takes off his back will also help. I believe he’s got a good chance of being in the frame here.

1.50 Cheltenham Datsalrightgino (Win)

The Cotswold Chase is a proper head scratcher and looks to be the hardest puzzle to solve on the card, despite there only being six runners. Royal Pagaille warrants respect after his Grade 1 success at Haydock, but I’m not convinced that Cheltenham is his track. Last year’s Albert Bartlett winner Stay Away Fay is a fascinating runner, but he might just lack the experience over the fences against the likes of Ahoy Senor and Capodanno. Therefore, I’m going to side with Datsalrightgino, who seemed to relish the step-up in trip when taking the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury last month. Reports say the ground is going to be good-to-soft, which should play right into his hands. It could just be that the son of Passing Gino might have more to offer over these longer distances.

2.25 Cheltenham – Jonbon (Win)

It’s great that the Clarence House Chase has been added to this card after last week’s meeting at Ascot was abandoned. We aren’t getting the clash we hoped for between Jonbon and El Fabiolo, but we are still getting to see one of racing’s stars with Jonbon. The JP McManus-owned gelding has done very little wrong in his career, and it looks like he has improved this season, including when he destroyed his rivals here by a wide margin in November. His main threat could be Editeur Du Gite, who bounced back to form with a win at Kempton. On the other hand, if Jonbon is on his A-game, he’ll be too good for the opposition.

3.00 Cheltenham – Love Envoi (Win)

Many punters will be intrigued to see how Lossiemouth fares on her seasonal return here. However, she could be vulnerable, as I think more often than not, horses don’t often quite deliver on their juvenile form. The one that stands out to me is Love Envoi, who is getting weight from all her rivals. She’s been a great mare for connections, winning the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022, as well as finishing second to Honeysuckle last year in the Mares’ Hurdle. Things didn’t quite go to plan when she finished second in a strange race at Sandown last time out. In my opinion, you can forgive her that run, and I’m expecting her to bounce back this time.

3.35  Cheltenham – Paisley Park (Win)

There are some real old favourites taking their chance in the Cleeve Hurdle with the likes of Champ and Dashel Drasher, but I’m going to side with Paisley Park, who is going for his fourth win in the race. Despite now being a 12-year-old, he is still showing plenty of enthusiasm for racing after posting a pair of close seconds at Newbury and Ascot this season. Furthermore, the New Course at Cheltenham tends to bring out the best in him with the nature of the track and the stiff uphill finish. I suspect there is one more big day in Emma Lavelle’s stable star.

2.05 Doncaster – Ashroe Diamond (Win)

Willie Mullins is no stranger to sending runners to Doncaster after previously winning this race with Annie Power and Vroom Vroom Mag over the years. For this year’s renewal, he saddles Ashroe Diamond and Gala Marceau in this spicy affair. It does look like a match between them, but my slight preference would be for Ashroe Diamond. Her novice form from last season looks to be the stronger of the pair, which included placed efforts behind Marine Nationale and Irish Point as well as a Grade 1 win at Fairyhouse. Whatever happens in this race is likely to shake up the antepost market for the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

2.40 Doncaster Welcome To Catries (Win)

Welcome To Catries looked every inch a stayer when winning at Ascot last month, pulling clear from his rivals in the final furlong. He does have to improve again to take this, but I think he will have plenty to offer stepping up in trip, and the good ground will be to his advantage. Of the others, Destroytheevidence looks to be the chief threat after running a solid second in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham last month, but Kim Bailey’s team has been a little quiet this winter, and I’m happy to leave him on this occasion.

3.15 Doncaster – Mister Coffey (Each Way)

There are several that look to have a good chance, but I think this could finally be the day for one of my cliff horses, Mister Coffey. He has always been a promising horse, who has often found one too good over the years. The nine-year-old has placed at the Cheltenham Festival, and he ran a respectable eighth in last year’s Grand National. Last time we saw him, he finished second over this course and distance at Christmas, which looked to be a prep run for this race. Nicky Henderson now turns to the cheekpieces, which might just bring out a bit of extra improvement, and the jockey booking of Daryl Jacob is also a positive. With all these things in his corner, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that this can be his Gold Cup.

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This Saturday, the ITV cameras go to Cheltenham for Trials Day as well as an exciting card at Doncaster featuring the Great Yorkshire Chase. Lucky Loader gives his selections on an intriguing afternoon of racing.
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