The bar staff at Kempton on a big race day rarely get a chance to draw breath, but this afternoon may be an exception. Such is the quality of the racing at both Kempton and Haydock that the crush around the television sets may well be greater than the one in the bar.
Two champions, a total of four winners at last year's Festival, and three more with Cheltenham victories in previous seasons are among the attractions, the favourites for the Stayers' Hurdles, Arkle Trophy, and the Grand National will also be in attendance, and with the major yards about to enter their pre-Festival purdah, punters are advised to make the most of it.
The logical place to start is Kempton's opening race, which is Thursday's abandoned Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton by another name. Thanks to the foresight of racing's administrators, Alderbrook, the 1995 Champion Hurdle winner, will go to Cheltenham with a run behind him, which is just as important for punters as it is for the horse and his connections. Right Win is the obvious danger to Alderbrook but, as was the case on Thursday, it is impossible to either support or oppose the champion with conviction. Simply hope that he emerges sound, and that Channel 4 finds enough space between the trivia to show a recording of the race in full.
The Champion Hurdle could also be the next stop for Alriffa, Right Win's stablemate, if he can reproduce his high-class Flat form over timber in the Dovecote Novice Hurdle. The value here though is Master Beveled (1.55), who attempted the impossible when trying to give 12lb to Mack The Knife last time. The latter's performance in the opener will be instructive.
Martin Pipe, Mack The Knife's trainer, has had a quiet campaign to date, but the victory of Draborgie (3.00) in a handicap chase at Warwick in January was a striking exception. Despite carrying top weight, Draborgie was backed like a certainty, led throughout and was being eased down from the second last, Even the recent Grade One winner Senor El Betrutti will struggle to contain her.
All this - not to mention Viking Flagship in the Emblem Chase - is simply the prelude to the Post Chase, which was diminished slightly by yesterday's withdrawal of Unguided Missile with a bruised foot.
Percy Smollett is the new favourite, but is far from certain to reverse recent Sandown form with Amtrak Express and punters should look elsewhere. ROUGH QUEST (nap 4.10.) has yet to win this season, but his form - in particular when second to Couldnt Be Better in Newbury's Hennessy - is impressive. Richard Dunwoody, who was due to partner Unguided Missile, picks up the ride, and the champion's excellent record in major races should be maintained.
Jodami heads the weights in the Post Chase but runs instead in the Greenalls Grand National Trial at Haydock. His main role here, however, may be to allow Deep Bramble (nb 2.30) to carry a reasonable racing weight. Paul Nicholls' chaser is making his seasonal debut but goes well fresh and can reinforce his position at the top of the Grand National market. At the same meeting, Morceli (1.30) and Attadale (2.00) also merit an interest.
GREENALLS TRIAL - 10-YEAR-TALE
1986 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 Fate of the favourites: A A 1 4 4 1 3 P 1&2 3
Winner's place in betting: A A 1 0 0 1 0 0 jt1 2
Starting-prices: A A 11-4 11-2 11-2 7-4 12-1 16-1 11-4 4-1
Ages: A A 7 10 9 11 10 9 8 10
Weights: A A 10 10 10 1 10 4 11 0 11 3 11 7 10 2 11 0
Profit or loss to pounds 1 stake: Favourites +pounds 0.37. Second Favourites -pounds 5.50
Percentage of winners placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in last race: 63%
Shortest-priced winner: Twin Oaks 7-4 (1991)
Longest-priced winner: Party Politics 16-1 (1993)
Top trainer: G Richards (2) - Rinus (1990), Twin Oaks (1991)
Top jockey: No jockey has won this race more than once in the last 10 years
Key: A = Abandoned; 1&2 = jt-favourites finished 1st and 2nd; jt1 = joint favouriteReuse content