Time to follow guide
Tizzard horse is an outsider for Gold Cup but should have enough for Kempton affair especially with drop in trip
Earlier in the week, Colin Tizzard had to deliver the news no racing fan wanted to hear that Thistlecrack would miss the remainder of the season and yesterday he unsurprisingly admitted: "It hit me for six."
Of course it would. In a year that the Cheltenham Festival is going to be robbed of many of National Hunt racing's highest-rated performers, Thistlecrack was the stand-out horse to look forward to in the Gold Cup but like Willie Mullins, Tizzard is in the more fortunate position that he has some subs to call upon, unlike, for instance, the Bradstocks for whom Coneygree is irreplaceable.
Tizzard still has the first two in the Gold Cup betting with Native River and Cue Card as well as outsider Theatre Guide and while the Gold Cup looks beyond Theatre Guide, the BetBright Chase at Kempton tomorrow might just be made for him.
Theatre Guide is an admirable sort who will be running off a career-high mark here for Tizzard and the same owners of Cue Card. Although he was no match for stable companion Native River in the Welsh National, this drop back in trip is likely to help bring out the best in him.
Theatre Guide won this race with ease last year and is now a stone higher in the handicap ratings for that victory and while the 10-year-old isn't going to be the most progressive in this line-up, he does seem to have a liking for the track and is still given the nod to oblige.
There's plenty of decent action domestically this weekend with the Bobbyjo Chase at Fairyhouse tomorrow and Festival Trials Day at Naas on Sunday.
Don Poli's absence from the Aintree Grand National is a blow to the race but it could prove to be a boost to trainer Gordon Elliott's championship credentials in Ireland, especially if he can win prizes, such as this €45,000 pot.
However, despite Don Poli clearly having the best form in the race, a chance is taken that Willie Mullins can take the honours on this occasion with Pleasant Company.
A Grand National entry, Pleasant Company couldn't compete with Champagne West and finished down the field in the Thyestes Chase but that was his first run since the Punchestown Festival and getting 10lbs off Don Poli over this trip of 3m1f could play to the strengths of Pleasant Company this time around.
At Naas on Sunday, the exciting Any Second Now will put his unbeaten record on the line in the Grade Two Novice Hurdle.
It's a race that was won in the past by horses like Go Native and Annie Power and Any Second Now could certainly have a big future. The five-year-old wouldn't have been loving the tight track at Punchestown last time but should be suited to Naas on Sunday and is just given the nod to get the better of the improving Mick Jazz.
This race could all depend on the form of Labaik, though. He clearly has a lot of ability but a tendency not to jump off at the start, but if he goes with them, it'll be fascinating to see how he fares.
Ball D'arc never had to come off the bridle to win at Navan last weekend and while the quick reappearance on heavy ground wouldn't be ideal, it looks like it could be a move that will reap rewards for Elliott in the Grade Three Novice Chase.
Elliott again holds the key in the concluding winners' bumper which has been won by some promising types over the years and Samcro looks the stand-out.
The Willie Mullins bumper team is headed by Carter McKay, who won here a couple of weeks ago, and Next Destination was impressive when winning at Fairyhouse but Samcro looks a bit special and a horse to really look forward to over jumps next season with Cheltenham off his agenda next month.