Walsh in timely return to lift the winter gloom


The Arctic blast which has swept across the country has played havoc with the fixture list with courses up and down the land suffering abandonments due to the snow and ice.

As a result Doncaster’s National Hunt Race Day, due to get take place tomorrow, has been abandoned.

It’s highly unfortunate as we were set for a bumper card.

Some of the those that were on the slate included the likes of interesting types such as Alan King’s Midnight Appeal, Keith Reverly’s Corkage and James Ewart’s Time Out, who all had pretentions in the day’s feature. However they’ll get their chance again and there’s still some fantastic action to look forward to elsewhere this weekend.

Double Grand National winner Ruby Walsh has received a ‘get out of jail free card’ which will enable him to take part in this Saturday’s big meeting at Newbury.

Having previously lost an appeal, his three day ban handed down for careless riding at Cheltenham has been deferred thanks to the addition of a Grade One race to the card.

Walsh was set to be on the sidelines for the weekend’s main event but British Horseracing Authority (BHA) rules state that Walsh can defer his ban on days where Grade One races are run.

The transfer of the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase from last Saturday’s abandoned Sandown card to this weekend’s Newbury fixture means Walsh gets a timely reprieve. As a result he’ll now ride Champion Hurdle hope and race favourite Zarkandar, in the day’s Betfair Hurdle.

Having had a decent lay off since winning last time out at the Grand National Meeting in April, trainer Paul Nichols has told punters that his mount could run a blinder, although he’s being trained for Cheltenham and will improve for the run. That said Nichols doesn’t have a reputation for producing horses that are soft round the edges.

Zarkandar’s main threat comes from Nicky Henderson’s unbeaten novice Darlan. Henderson knows that script having won the race with another unbeaten novice, Get Me Out of Here, in 2010.

However Henderson has complained that Darlan has been unfairly treated by the handicapper and is giving away more weight than he would like.

Alan King’s Raya Star is another in-form contender, having won the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot in December. Connections were delighted with his performance then and are happy with his weight. Having forgone a run out at Leopardstown in favour of Newbury, the likelihood is he’ll be primed for a good performance and hopeful of a fast run pace.

In a highly competitive race, given half a chance the likes of Final Approach, Soldatino and Sire de Grugy, among others, could also get right up there.

Fingers crossed the cold snap eases very soon, with our next race day due to take place on Wednesday, February 22.

For more information on Doncaster Racecourse or to buy tickets to racing or event, go to www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk or call 01302 304200.