Udontdodou warms up for California at chilly Chelmsford
Chelmsford regular Udontdodou has his last race before taking an ambitious trip to California when he takes on five rivals in the £20,000 Bet totexacta At betfred.com Handicap (7.45).
The five-year-old, who has won three of his four starts at Chelmsford, has not run for more than three months, but that is not a worry to trainer Richard Guest, who believes he has a good chance on Thursday evening in a race that should put him spot on for a valuable conditions race over six and a half furlongs on turf at Santa Anita on February 4.
Guest said: "He loves to be fresh and is in great order. He loves the track and should go well."
Explaining the thinking behind the California trip, he added: "It's fantastic money out there and we've been looking at it for a while. We were going to go earlier but then the fires broke out there and so we possibly dodged a bullet.
"Kieren Fallon knows the track and reckons it will suit Udontdodou. We'll aim to give him three races there and if someone wants to buy him that's fine. If not he'll come back. I'm also taking a horse of my brother Rae's called Lastmanlastround."
Boom The Groom is dangerously well handicapped, now 13lb lower than at the same time last year, but Tony Carroll has not had a winner for 100 days.
On a day when all-weather meetings outnumber jumps fixtures by three to one, there is also a £20,000 event at Wolverhampton, in this case the 32Red.com Fillies' Conditions Stakes (3.00), a fast-track qualifier for Good Friday's finals.
The William Haggas-trained Diagnostic is likely to be a warm order here, having won three races by widening margins at Chelmsford since going down by a head on her debut at Chepstow.
Raven's Lady, who has an identical BHA rating, looks the main danger and Marco Botti reports she is "working well".
He added: "She had a bit of a break but we've been aiming at this race for a while. I think she's fit enough and on ratings she should have a good chance.
"She didn't enjoy the track on her last run at Chelmsford. The track was very deep that day and she wants a fast surface. On grass she's definitely a sprinter and goes well over six furlongs, but on the all-weather the extra furlong is no problem, especially on a fast track like Wolverhampton."
Longer trip no worry
Newcastle's feature race is the Betway Handicap (2.05), the classier of two consecutive races over two miles.
Good Time Ahead has shown improved form over a mile and a half and a mile and six furlongs at Southwell lately, and trainer Phil Kirby has no worries about the longer trip. He does, however, wonder if he will be quite as effective at Newcastle, even though he has won there.
Kirby said: "He's needed every yard of the trips he's been running over, but there's no doubt his best form is at Southwell. Whether that's the track or because he's just coming to himself I don't know, but we'll find out.
"I'm not sure Harrison [Shaw] has ridden for me before, but he's riding winners and his 7lb claim will be useful."
Point-to-pointers to fore
Conditions are certain to be testing at Bangor, where there are interesting candidates from the point-to-point field at both ends of the weights in the opening Stella Artois Novices' Handicap Chase (1.15).
Richard Woollacott, whose Beer Goggles lowered the colours of Unowhatimeanharry in the Grade 2 hurdle at Newbury last month, runs topweight The Kings Writ, who showed distinct promise in novice hurdles and reverts to his care after winning both his points for wife Kayley.
Dave Dennis, who saddled four winners between Boxing Day and the end of the year, runs Ballyegan Warrior, who was an unlucky last-fence faller in testing ground at Lismore in October and has run respectably since.
Read The Briefing from 8.30am daily on racingpost.com with all the day's latest going, weather, market moves and non-runner news