Alsa Mix is well capable of springing another surprise as the Grade One Betway Challow Novices’ Hurdle takes centre stage at Newbury.
Alan King’s mare was easily good enough to stump several well-touted rivals at Sandown three weeks ago – and she may just repeat the dose up in class again on Saturday.
Unbeaten in four starts and three disciplines, Alsa Mix has proved she stays this trip well and is adaptable to ground conditions.
King is a prolifically successful trainer across all codes and with all types, of course, but he is especially adept with a decent mare – and on plenty of evidence to date, there is no doubt Alsa Mix is just that. It will not be easy, as befits a race of this standing. Nicky Henderson’s Champ is a likely warm favourite on the back of his course-and-distance handicap win just under a month ago.
The rangy six-year-old had a fair bit in hand that day. It is slightly disconcerting that runner-up Le Musee has since let the side down with a laboured fifth at Ascot, although in contrast sixth-placed Padleyourowncanoe won well at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
Whichever view you take on those runs, Alsa Mix’s Grade Two novice form is worth supporting at the prices.
In the Betway Mandarin Handicap Chase, top weight Reikers Island has all the right credentials.
It is not unusual for this staying test to be won by a young improver, so at the age of five Philip Hobbs’ recent Wincanton winner fits the bill despite his welter 12 stone burden.
The manner of that victory, powering clear from the hat-trick-seeking Some Chaos, suggests Reikers Island will be a force to be reckoned with not just here but for seasons to come too.
Station Master has the better ground he needs at Doncaster, in the MansionBet Handicap Chase.
Kim Bailey’s seven-year-old was clumsy back in his Irish point-to-point days. But after a season of successful reconnaissance over hurdles, he has shown this autumn that chasing is his game.
Two runner-up spots, to Just A Sting at Uttoxeter and then The Young Master at Cheltenham, read well in this company.
Happy Diva was one of the many hard-luck stories in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup, brought down four out when she was going well and moving into contention.
She can gain compensation and confidence in the MansionBet Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase for Kerry Lee.
At Kelso, it is a tip in itself that Sam’s Adventure runs in the ROA/Racing Post Owners’ Jackpot Maiden Hurdle.
The patchy appearance record of Brian Ellison’s six-year-old suggests he is hard to keep right.
When he does make it to the track, though, Sam’s Adventure has some terrific form - and after returning from a near two-year lay-off with a heartening third in a similar event at Ayr last month, he has been given the right amount of time to recover and go again.
Ireland stages more Grade One action, and Delta Work’s third start over fences is eagerly awaited in Leopardstown’s Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
The five-year-old surprised his powerful connections by proving up to the task over hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival last spring, and then going mighty close to following up at Punchestown.
They did not appear remotely tempted to delay his chasing career, however, and Delta Work has proved them right with successive victories at Down Royal and Fairyhouse.
His half-length win over Le Richebourg, despite a mistake at the last, was bolstered when that rival went on to win a Grade One of his own here on Boxing Day.
Delta Work goes on any ground, will be even better over this three miles and is almost certainly a star of the future as well as present.
DONCASTER: 11.50 Ey Up Rocky, 12.20 Interconnected, 12.55 Golden Image, 1.30 Station Master (treble), 2.05 Happy Diva, 2.40 Kasakh Noir, 3.15 Frankie Rapper.
KELSO: 11.45 Sam’s Adventure (next best), 12.15 Geronimo, 12.50 Baby Ticker, 1.25 Charmant, 2.00 Glinger Flame, 2.35 Donna’s Diamond, 3.10 Mighty Thunder.
NEWBURY: 12.05 Running Cloud, 12.40 Brewin’Upastorm, 1.15 Another Crick, 1.50 Coeur Blimey, 2.25 REIKERS ISLAND (NAP), 3.00 Alsa Mix, 3.35 Polydora.
SOUTHWELL: 12.00 Fenjal, 12.35 Rock Bottom, 1.10 Qallaab, 1.45 Fingal’s Cave, 2.20 Casterbridge, 2.55 Jazz Legend, 3.30 Cosmogyral.