Sun Racing ambassador Megan Nicholls is back as she looks ahead to a big day of racing at Newbury and AyrApril 13, 2019
THERE's some cracking racing this weekend both over the jumps and on the Flat, and I'm really looking forward to the action.
Newbury gets off to a flyer with Defoe and Young Rascal taking each other on in the opening contest – and it's very hard to split the pair of them.
Defoe is unbeaten round Newbury but so is Young Rascal although Defoe is having his first run since being gelded and that could help.
If he has been quirky, boisterous and slightly coltish then this could bring even more out of him. He's a very talented horse and he could be the one that takes all the beating.
However, the Haggas team have always thought a lot of Young Rascal. He was considered a Derby horse at one time and after his seventh in the Classic, he bounced back with two wins at the back end of last season.
He comes here with his first start back just like Defoe but I imagine both are pretty straight and it's very exciting.
It's a great first race back on the Flat at Newbury and I'm very much looking forward to seeing those two back in action.
The Fred Darling has a classy line up which includes Dancing Vega who was very impressive when winning at Doncaster on her only start.
She drops back to seven furlongs today, although I don't think that will be an issue.
She looked to have plenty of toe that day I'm very much looking forward to seeing her run as she could be very exciting this season.
Aidan O'Brien sends So Perfect over and she has plenty more experience in the bag. She wasn't beaten all that far in the Cheveley Park before going to America and finishing third there.
She's well travelled and some of her form is very hot and she's clearly a very talented filly.
She could be one to serve it up to the favourite but at this stage we don't know how good Dancing Vega is.
The Greenham is another cracker with Richard Hannon's Boitron making his seasonal reappearance. The Hannon yard has had a flying start to the season and the horses are obviously very well.
Today's Ayr runners
We run Magic Saint in the first who is a talented horse who won impressively at Wincanton although he was slightly disappointing at Cheltenham – but I don't think the rain helped him at all.
He will definitely be happier on this good ground and he should be suited being back on a flatter track. One to watch out for in that race is Forest Bihan.
He's a talented horse of Brian Ellison's and ran well at Cheltenham finishing fourth. He missed Aintree and he often comes right at this time of year, he could be one on this nice spring ground who could run a big race.
In the second race we run Ibis Du Rheu who has had a break since running at Warwick. He came back with a slightly bruised foot but he's had plenty of time since then to get that all right.
He seems well at home and before Warwick he'd won and been second so had had a good start to the season. He's coming into it pretty fresh and the good ground should be okay so hopefully he can run well.
A horse in the race I quite like is Azzerti. He ran well at Cheltenham considering he prefers this quicker ground. This type of race is made for him and he could be one worth watching.
In the Scottish Champion Hurdle we run Malaya who purposefully missed Cheltenham to come here fresh after her Imperial Cup win. It was an impressive performance that day as she isn't always the safest jumper.
On the whole she can jump pretty well but she can throw in a funky one along the way!
Hopefully she can jump well, I think the good ground will help her a lot and she looks incredible. She's really come into herself at home. If she has a clear round she could be bang there.
Nube Negra from Dan Skelton's is one to watch. He was narrowly beaten at Newbury on his last start. He ran well that day and if he bounces out of that okay then he could be bang up there as well.
It's an incredibly competitive race but I like the fact that our mare gets in off 10st 12lb which is a nice weight to be in at so hopefully she will have a clear round and I think she could go very close.
The next race is super competitive. We run Secret Investor who much like Ballywood is a much improved horse through the year.
The last day at Wincanton, Secret Investor was very impressive and I think we may have found the way he likes to be ridden. He bowled along in front that day and got into a super rhythm, on the whole he jumped very well and maybe bouncing out in front is the way to ride him.
If he can repeat that performance then he's got every chance. Ballywood is an improved horse for a fence and has continued to improve throughout the year.
At some stage you'd be thinking the handicapper would get on top of him but he's kept on progressing. He will probably start favourite and rightly so and he will take some beating but Dad has never hidden the fact we like our fella and for him to get his head in front so impressively the last day was brilliant as it just confirmed his promise.
It would be great to see him do that again although both have had hard enough seasons and if one flopped it wouldn't be a surprise.
They'll nearly all be ready for their holidays now but our fella comes into it in good form and we'll be hopeful.
Boitron is a very talented horse who was unbeaten before running a very good race over in France and the form has worked out very well.
Broome, who finished ahead of him that day, bounced out in the Ballysax Stakes in Ireland and won by half the track.
If Boitron steps forward like Broome has then he could be bang there and take some beating. Kevin Ryan sends Hello Youmzain who won at Carlisle and then was narrowly beaten second time out at Haydock.
He then bounced back and won a Group 2 contest in France. He again is slightly unexposed and it will be interesting to see some of these horses stepping up now and hopefully progress.
Once again it's a really good race and these three races to start the card are seriously hot.
Away from Newbury the Scottish National takes centre stage at Ayr. We don't have a runner in this but Caroline Bailey's Crosspark could be worth a look.
He won the Eider and was super tough in doing so, good ground may help him out as well and he's proven to stay.
Vintage Clouds went into the Grand National with a nice chance but unfortunately fell at the first, although it does mean that he never had a hard race and is obviously fine since then.
We did the same with Vicente, he fell in the National but came back and won the Scottish National. It can be done and he's definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Alan King's Dingo Dollar has stayed much better on the last two starts and good ground will definitely help. If he's going to stay then this is his best chance.
Beware The Bear is well fancied and rightly so but I don't think he's got it wrapped up as it is a competitive race. With all these handicaps you need a bit of luck.
They're going to be going a decent gallop and jumping is a major factor and these races are not easy to win.
I know Beware The Bear is in good form but it's not as easy as that, there's plenty of horses down the weights that want looking at for sure. Having to carry top weight is a big ask in these races.
Earlier this week I was lucky enough to head off to Wolverhampton for the barrier trials.
These are run by Craig and Gary Witherford who have linked up with Lingfield and Wolverhampton so far this year. It's an absolutely awesome initiative and it's been a huge help to a lot of people.
It allows us to do some work with the stalls at a racecourse, especially for some horses that are maybe unraced or horses that have maybe had previous problems or nerves with the stalls and they've proven to be hugely popular.
I was lucky enough to take one of Dad's up to Wolverhampton this week to take part in one of the trials.
He had previously had a couple of issues with the stalls and he's yet to run this season so it was a perfect opportunity to go through the stalls.
He was very well behaved and we gave him a gallop as well which will hopefully put us right for the coming season.
The trials have been brilliant and I hope they get continued support, every time I've been at one there's been loads of horses, trainers from all over the place and plenty of jockeys come down to ride them.
It's proven a real hit and I think it was probably something we were missing over here so it's been a great thing that they've put on.
It's definitely something we'll look to be taking part in again when we've got the right horses and I'm sure that many people agree with me.
I know that Archie Watson has taken a few of his early two-year-olds to a barrier trial and a few of his have been winning.
Sunday's Wincanton runners
In the second race at Wincanton we run Peak To Peak. Lorcan rode him the last day and rides him again on Sunday and he ran a much better race at Ascot the last time.
He's a big horse who has taken a while to come to fitness but he proved that he was back when he ran at Ascot. That was a great run and he wasn't beaten far then. On that performance he should be bang there.
We also run San Satiro who hasn't taken to fences all that well so is back over hurdles and hopefully that will bring a bit more out of him.
He's not been the easiest to place this year but hopefully back over hurdles that may sweeten him back up and hopefully he'll enjoy it.
In the Military race we run Southfield Torr. He's been a complete headscratcher but he's off a very low mark and he's more than capable, Jody Sole takes the ride who's often done well for us in these race.
It's hard to make much of a case for him as he has been frustrating and disappointing a few times but he is more than capable off this mark and if Jody gets on well with him then we could be seeing his head in front so fingers crossed.
The Hunter Chase has cut up and we run Southfield Vic who finished second last time which was a much more promising run. He's an older horse now so he's pretty wise to the game, if he wants to he can definitely go out and win one of these so hopefully he can get into a rhythm and enjoy it.
We run two in the bumper including Eritage and Lorcan claims 2lb off him. He won a bumper impressively in France before finishing third at Exeter. The form for that has actually worked out well with Harry Fry's horse Get In The Queue winning for Noel Fehily on his last ride.
He's a horse that we hold in high regard and is going to be much better for time and a summer of grass. He has a big frame to fill still but he certainly has an engine. He could be bang there and hopefully he's improved from his first run.
We also run Mister Timmytucks who finished 6th in his bumper at Exeter but is another horse who needs a summer of grass to fill into his frame. Experience for him is going to do him the world of good as he was slightly green at Exeter but in saying that he still ran pretty well.
He will definitely improve with time and is one for the future.
Last year plenty of winners were coming out of these barrier trials and it's clearly something that works, it's all very well that some of these horses behave and don't mind the stalls at home but at the races they get worked up with the adrenaline and this is the closest you can get to being in a race environment without it being an actual race.
There's maybe 8 or 10 horses in a group going together so you can get them used to it and give them the confidence of going together, and just helps them a bit.
It's awesome to be able to support this and take part, I think it's only a good thing for the future of racing and it's definitely a step in the right direction.
These are the type of things that have been needed for a while and it's nice to finally see it happening and taking place.
I must say a huge thank you to the stalls handlers as well that come and help, we couldn't do our job every day without them, so a massive thanks to them.
And also to Lingfield and Wolverhampton who are allowing us to do this. Without them it wouldn't be possible, it's a huge team effort but it's definitely paying off and I think it will continue to do so.
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