The racing on Saturday is bi-polar. On the one hand, there is some fine national hunt fare on offer in the West Country of England. Rural, picturesque, speak-as-we-find, Wincanton, Somerset, is a peach of a racecourse. On the other, across the pond, the plutocrats of the flat do battle at the rather grand Churchill Downs, in Louisville, US, the home of the Kentucky Derby and of this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
Real ale is a national hunt sort of drink - let the fancy Dans of the flat sip Krug - so it is fitting that the feature at Wincanton is the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase. Those seeking glory and millions at Churchill Downs would no doubt scoff at the £70,000 on offer. But in the real world of jumps racing, this is a decent pot and it has attracted a decent field. The stand out is Ladalko.
This seven-year old took some time to warm to fences but got better as last season progressed. His best race was probably his last of the season, when he was a desperately unlucky second in the Scottish Grand National. A replication of that form, even under his big weight, would be good enough to score on Saturday. The biggest threat could be Keltic Bard, who is a good choice if you like to bet each-way.
Over in the land of the free and the home of KFC, the European raiding party looks in disarray. Prize money of £1.5 million is enough to turn heads, but George Washington is running in the wrong race. Racing is all about opinions, but to this observer if a son of Danehill wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the dirt we are reaching the last days; the wolf will lie down with the lamb. David Junior’s breeding gives him a squeak, but he won’t win. Bernandini looks imperious but Invasor might well get the better of the hot favourite.
Scorpion and Hurricane Run have a chance in the Turf, but steer clear. The best bet of the home team is Araafa in the NetJets Mile. For a final contrast we jet to Northern Ireland where the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal is the best race ran there all year. Reigning Gold Cup champ War of Attrition will not be beaten.
2:40 Down Royal War of Attrition (win)
3:20 Wincanton Ladalko (win)
8:15 Churchill Downs Araafa (win)
10:20 Churchill Downs Invasor (win)