Norton runner Oscar Rock fancied to make the Grade at Newbury

Oscar Rock, a rising star from Malcolm Jefferson’s Norton stable, has travelled from North Yorkshire to Newbury in search of Grade 1 glory this afternoon.

One of last season’s leading bumper horses when he was trained by Harry Fry, Oscar Rock was transferred to Jefferson’s yard in late summer.

An exciting addition, the five-year-old made an impressive hurdling debut at Wetherby, where he won by a wide margin.

He then turned out at Newcastle four weeks ago, but suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Ballyalton.

The winner has since gone on to a Cheltenham victory, while Blakemount, comfortably held in third, ran out an 11-length winner on his return to Newcastle last week.

Oscar Rock steps up to the top division in today’s Betfred Challow Hurdle, which may look a tall order. However, he will relish the expected heavy ground and is napped to reign supreme in the hands of regular rider Brian Hughes.

Castle Conflict should go well in the Betfred Handicap Chase.

Henry Daly’s gelding was a fluent winner at Bangor recently.

He has been raised 9lb for that success, but Daly has handed the mount this time to Jake Greenall, whose 3lb allowance shaves a little off that extra burden.

Denali Highway will be a popular choice in the Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase after his excellent comeback effort behind No Planning at Wetherby six weeks ago.

Caroline Bailey’s gelding will strip fitter this afternoon.

Malton-born jockey Andrew Tinkler has good prospects of enjoying a Royal winner for Christmas.

He wears the colours of Her Majesty the Queen aboard Open Hearted, a winner at Bangor two weeks ago, in the Betfred Novices’ Chase.

Nicky Henderson’s charge looks sure to go well.

At Catterick, Rainbow Peak commands special attention in the first division of the Racing UK Maiden Hurdle.

A horse with a Flat rating of 109, he was a Group 1 winner overseas on the level, but he has not been seen for well over a year.

Now with John Ferguson, he will surely be hard to beat if he can jump adequately on his hurdling debut.

Ferguson also has good prospects of winning the second division with Aalim, also the mount of Denis O’Regan, who finished a creditable second at Market Rasen on his hurdling bow.

In the Julie Calderbank ‘My Soulmate’ Memorial Handicap Chase, Milan Royale promises to go well for Harry Haynes.

A narrow winner here with Haynes on board earlier in the month, Kevin Hunter’s eight-year-old has every chance of producing an encore.

Also worth noting at the North Yorkshire course are Big Water (2.25), who is overdue a chasing success, and Twice Lucky (3.00), who found only Presented too strong at Newcastle four weeks ago.


Racing selections

Catterick today 12.25 Rainbow Peak, 12.55 Aalim, 1.25 Milan Royale, 1.55 Queen Of Epirus, 2.25 Big Water, 3.00 Twice Lucky, 3.35 Pudsey House.

Newbury today 12.15 Baradari, 12.45 Castle Conflict, 1.15 Denali Highway, 1.45 Oscar Rock (NAP), 2.15 Open Hearted, 2.50 Black River, 3.25 Wilde Blue Yonder.

Today’s other meetings: Lingfield and Chepstow.

Tomorrow’s meetings: Doncaster, Kelso, Southwell, Haydock and Lingfield.

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