Veterans, Czechs and potential stars to look forward to
Old favourite nearing in on double century
An official rating of 30 on the turf and 47 on the all-weather doesn't tell half the story of popular veteran General Tufto, who makes his 187th career start at his favourite track on Tuesday (2.20).
The 11-year-old has notched 14 of his 16 victories at Southwell and ran a fine race on his return to the Nottinghamshire course when third at 66-1 last month under Joey Haynes.
Previously described by trainer Charles Smith as "a funny old devil", General Tufto may well have his own ideas about the game but the Fibresand warrior continues to run with credit at Southwell, although this week's assignment, a 56-70 rated handicap, may prove beyond him.
Whatever the result, he'll be sure to give apprentice rider Noel Garbutt a good workout.
Novice chases to savour
There's racing at Newcastle on Thursday – and it's not on the all-weather! The £10,000 novice chase (12.40), won by subsequent Grade 2 scorer Three Kingdoms two years ago, promises to be another decent renewal with the talented and unexposed Waiting Patiently and Forest Bihan among 14 entries.
Former Persian War winner Roadie Joe, last year's Winter Novices' Hurdle runner-up Captain Chaos and mid-to-high 130-rated chasers Pinkie Brown, Lake View Lad and Dubawi Island should ensure it is an above-average contest if the majority take their place in the line-up.
The opening race of the day at Bangor (12.10) on Friday has been won by Melodic Rendezvous and Vyta Du Roc in the past two years and this year's renewal boasts a number of high-profile entries, most notably Grade 1-winning hurdler Buveur D'Air, recent Grade 2-placed novice chaser Virgilio and talented handicappers A Hare Breath and Starchitect.
Return of the Westend
One of last season's leading bumper performers is set to make his hurdling debut this week with Philip Hobbs's Westend Story holding entries at Warwick (12.50) on Thursday and Doncaster (12.30) on Friday.
Following impressive victories at Huntingdon and Exeter, Westend Story was sent off a 20-1 shot for the Champion Bumper and finished fifth, although he was very unlucky in running.
Former leading rider Mick Fitzgerald will be roaring home the son of Westerner this week as the talented five-year-old is owned by his Racing Club, which enjoyed success on the big stage on Hennessy day with Onefitzall.
Czech this out
Any cross-country chase fans had better book the day off on Friday as the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (2.05) should be a cracker. Looking down the 16 possible runners, the familar green and gold hooped silks of JP McManus, alongside the name of trainer Enda Bolger, stick out like a sore thumb, with this year's eventual cross-country festival scorer Josies Orders entered along with Cantlow, Love Rory and Auvergnat.
There are also some familiar favourites, most notably 13-year-old Any Currency, who has plenty of history over the unique course having passed the post in front in March before being disqualified following a positive post-race test for the pain-killer triamcinolone acetonide. There is also Alelchi Inois, Bless The Wings, Third Intention and Boston Bob.
However, there is one name that will be novel to most. Delight My Fire, trained by Radim Bodlak, is set to represent the Czech Republic and is rated a potential Velka Pardubicka prospect. Extra spice is also added later on the card with stablemate Taurito (3.15), a winner of three races in Poland this year, entered in the 2m½f handicap hurdle, while you can see another Czech in Jan Faltejsek aboard lovable 13-year-old Knockara Beau in the 3m handicap hurdle (2.40).
History could be made at Cheltenham on Saturday. Village Vic will become only the second horse to win back-to-back runnings of the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (1.50) if successful under Richard Johnson, the leading rider in the race with three victories to his name.
Off a 22lb higher mark than last year, it will undoubtedly be a tough ask to repeat Poquelin's feat, although Alan Peterson's chaser posted a career-best performance when second in the BetVictor Gold Cup at the track on his return last month.
The winner, Taquin Du Seuil, is also likely to reappear off a 5lb higher mark. Lumping top weight in a race of this nature, in which four of the last five winners have carried 10st 8lb or less, is a test in itself, but Jonjo O'Neill's nine-year-old, a former JLT winner, is simply better than handicap company, isn't he?