Turf Talk: Wakanda well-equipped to end losing streak at Doncaster
Wakanda can end a lengthy losing streak that stretches back to 2015 with victory in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.
Sue Smith’s runner has not won since lifting a Listed chase at Ascot in December that year, but that is not to say he has been out of form in the interim.
Indeed the nine-year-old has been battling away with plenty of credit, falling just short of victory on more than one occasion, most recently when chinned on the line at Wetherby on Boxing Day.
He got into a duel with his stablemate Delusionofgrandeur that day and, having bested him by a neck, the lighter-weighted Get On The Yager swooped late to win by a head.
Wakanda started off on a mark of 144 that day and lines up here off 145, which actually puts him 2lb well in following the handicapper’s reassessment. He should certainly give his backers a run for their money, particularly as all ground seems to come alike to him.
The BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase is the highlight of Cheltenham’s trials day and it could pay to give Coneygree one last chance in the main event.
Winner of the Gold Cup itself in 2015, he has suffered plenty of troubles since, with a breathing problem this season the latest in his catalogue of issues.
He has been pulled up on each of his two starts this term, with his most recent effort in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury particularly disappointing.
However, Coneygree has since undergone wind surgery and if that operation works as hoped, he would be right back in the mix.
There would surely be no more popular winner of the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle than Beer Goggles.
The seven-year-old clearly took a massive leap forward when winning the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury in November and although he had things all his own way from the front, he was pulling away again at the finish and can prove that was no fluke.
Apple’s Shakira has everything in her favour in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle.
She is two from two since joining Nicky Henderson and the conditions of this race once again hand the initiative to her.
Celestial Spheres can kick off an across-the-card double for Charlie Appleby in Lingfield’s Betway Handicap.
He showed some decent form as a juvenile, most notably when beating subsequent Group Three scorer Monarchs Glen on his final start of 2016 at Goodwood.
However, he showed nothing like that form on his return to action in April last year and was then off the track until making a winning return at Newmarket in November.
Celestial Spheres then flopped next time but showed that was only a minor blip when winning again at Lingfield on New Year’s Eve, taking a step up to 12 furlongs in his stride.
Pitched in over that course and distance once more, Celestial Spheres could take some beating, even allowing for a 4lb rise.
Native Arrow can then make it a brace for Appleby in the 32Red On The App Store Maiden Stakes at Kempton.
He disappointed on his debut as an odds-on favourite at the beginning of the month but can step up on that fourth place.
Shyron is another who was out of luck when last seen, but can make his presence felt in the 32Red Handicap.
He was putting in all his best work at the finish over this seven furlongs at Lingfield, but the winning post came too soon as he finished a length adrift in fourth.
A truer pace would have suited better and connections will be hoping they get that on this occasion.
TURF TALK TIPS
CHELTENHAM: 12.40 Apple’s Shakira, 1.15 Full Irish, 1.50 King’s Odyssey, 2.25 Coneygree (next best), 3.00 Mulcahys Hill, 3.35 Beer Goggles (treble), 4.10 Clondaw Castle.
DONCASTER: 12.55 Dalaman, 1.30 Sceau Royal, 2.05 Enniscoffey Oscar, 2.40 Irish Roe, 3.15 WAKANDA (NAP), 3.50 Bigmartre, 4.20 Ritas Bid.
KEMPTON: 5.45 Native Arrow, 6.15 Inuk, 6.45 Desert Fox, 7.15 Magic Mark, 7.45 Shyron, 8.15 Shadow Warrior, 8.45 Iley boy.
LINGFIELD: 1.25 Make Magic, 2.00 Surrey Hope, 2.35 Agent Error, 3.10 Celestial Spheres, 3.45 Daltrey, 4.15 Wild Flower.
UTTOXETER: 1.45 Colonial Dreams, 2.20 Somewhere To Be, 2.55 Minella Present, 3.30 Kayfleur, 4.00 Native Robin, 4.30 The Game Is A Foot.