Today's bread-and-butter afternoon at Doncaster has acquired a dollop of jam, with the unheralded presence of one of the best, and best-loved, horses in training. The recent relatively dry spell has at last afforded trainer Donald McCain the opportunity to give Overturn his second experience of fences in the two mile, three furlong novices event on Town Moor.
The gelding's first came with an impressive success at Sandown back in early November, but rain-sodden conditions have kept him out of action since. The ground tomorrow is forecast as good to soft.
"We were half-thinking about waiting for Kempton at the weekend," said McCain today, "but it will probably be the nicest ground he's seen in a while at Doncaster, so we'll let him take his chance there."
Overturn is no flashy unbeaten type – he has lost many more races than he has won – but is one of those the racing public has taken to its heart. Today's contest will start his seventh year of competition in a career that started at Newmarket when he was two, since when his honest enthusiasm has remained resolutely intact.
His talent is as versatile as it is classy. On the Flat he has won two top stayers' handicaps, the Northumberland Plate and Chester Cup; over hurdles he progressed from taking the Galway Plate and Scottish Champion Hurdle to Grade One success in the Fighting Fifth before splitting Rock On Ruby and Hurricane Fly in last year's Champion Hurdle.
The little white-blazed bay's transfer to the larger obstacles was a matter of some heart-searching by connections but his display on his debut was that of a well-schooled gazelle, foot-perfect and flamboyant. The nine-year-old may have come to steeplechasing late in life but he is second favourite, behind equally exciting Simonsig, to take top novice honours in the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham.
Overturn will face just three rivals in this afternoon's bonus for racegoers and will start long odds-on. "It's a good enough little race and he's ready to go," McCain said. "It will be nice to get another run into him and all going well, the plan will be to have one more before Cheltenham."
Some remarkable hot streaks showed no signs of cooling. At Wolverhampton, trainer David O'Meara's record of at least a winner a day in 2013 continued as Frontier Fighter took the mile maiden, and jockey Adam Kirby notched his third treble in nine days.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Captain Kendall (6.10 Kempton) Lightly raced and his easy maiden victory last time, albeit in a poor contest, may be a launch pad. Sticks to his optimum trip of six furlongs for his second crack at a handicap.
Tiqris (12.50 Ludlow) Point-to-point winner who will have benefited mentally and physically from his third-placed comeback in smart bumper company last month.
Where the money's going
The Paul Nicholls candidate Black Thunder was today's mover in Ladbrokes' list for Saturday's Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, 8-1 from 10-1.
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