With the Cheltenham festival just over a week away, the management of Newbury racecourse deserve praise for putting on such a competitive Saturday card. The feature of the day is the Vodafone Gold Cup Handicap Chase and favourite Buckby Lane will be a warm order for the new two and a half mile championship race at the festival if he can win this.
This is a competitive field but Buckby Lane could still be a step ahead of the handicapper. After being off the track for more than a year he won very nicely last time out in the Ladbroke Trophy Chase. Buckby Lane did it the hard way, out in front for most of the race and put in an exhibition round of quick and accurate jumping.
The form of that contest at Cheltenham looks solid. Third home that day Farmer Jack has since won twice in Class A company, including a comfortable win in a strong renewal of the Racing Post Chase at Kempton on Saturday. Buckby Lane has been put up nine pounds for his victory but that may not be enough to stop him following up on Saturday. Hand Inn Hand is a classy opponent but is difficult to win with.
Up at Doncaster Gingembre is another horse on the road to recovery after a long-term injury. This former Hennessy winner won't need to be at his very best to win the totescoop6 Grimthorpe Chase even under top weight. The horse returned lame from the 2003 Grand National at Aintree but after a 679-day lay-off he ran well for a long way in his reappearance in the Aon Chase. A good run here will set Gingembre up for another tilt at the Scottish Grand National, a race he won in 2001.
Strong Resolve is also running a Scottish National prep race. He was second in the Welsh Grand National to the very smart Silver Birch and the Totesport Handicap Chase at Kelso should be well within his compass.
2:25 Doncaster Gingembre (win)
3:15 Newbury Buckby Lane (win)
3:20 Kelso Strong Resolve (win)