THERE are two northern jumps meetings this week and both are being staged today, which says little for race-planning.
Not that racegoers at Wetherby will be complaining with some healthy fields for its seven-race programme and a mini-raid on the A1 course by Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson, pictured, who sends three horses north and has good chances of winning with at least two of them.
The champion trainer saddles nap selection Nesterenko in the opening Wear A Hat Day Supporting braintumourresearch.org Conditional Jockeys' Novices' Hurdle and Nico de Boinville's mount looks sure to take plenty of beating.
Although far from being one of the stars of Henderson's power-packed stable, Nesterenko is up to winning a race of this standard. A consistent sort, he won at Doncaster in December and has since been far from disgraced in finishing fourth back at Doncaster and at Cheltenham. He should be too good for his rivals.
Henderson can also win the closing Wetherby Racecourse Family Day - Sunday 13th April National Hunt Flat Race with Hunters Hoof.
Although not seen out since finishing second at Doncaster at the end of November, he went down by only a short head that day.
On his only previous start, he finished in mid-field at Ascot. He appeals as a horse with potential and he should be involved in the finish this afternoon.
Henderson's other runner Pippa Greene can not be left out of the reckoning in the ROA Owners Jackpot Handicap Hurdle, but the ten-year-old is wearing a first-time hood after falling short in three outings this season and can not be supported with confidence.
Preference is for Rayak, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, who finished fifth at Sandown last time, but who had previously filled the runner-up berth here and at Newbury. He has leading claims on that form.
Norton trainer Malcolm Jefferson performed one of the training feats of the season when producing Lua de Itapoan to win at Sedgefield last month on her first outing since November 2011.
The winning margin that day was 28 lengths and the handicapper has taken his revenge by raising the nine-year-old 13lb in the ratings. This will be tougher as a result, but Lua de Itapoan has had little racing for a mare of her age and is surely open to further improvement.
Indian Voyage (2.50) is fancied to utilise his light weight in the handicap chase, while Phil Kirby's easy Catterick winner Rosie Du Berlais (5.05) is selected to complete a double in the hunters' chase.
At Newcastle, North Yorkshire trainer Mark Walford, still in search of his first winner since taking over the training licence from his father Tim at Sheriff Hutton at the beginning of last month, has a good chance of breaking his duck with Highlander Ted in the IJF John Francome President Conditional Jockeys' Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
Highlander Ted went down by only a head to Ryton Run at Musselburgh a month ago and is entitled to go well again. Jake Greenall will be in the saddle.
In the IJF John Oaksey Memorial Handicap Chase, Badger Foot should not be overlooked over a course and distance where he has scored in the past.
Lucinda Russell's gelding has been running consistently well this season without much reward and bids to step up on his second-placed effort at Ayr and his previous Kelso performance when he finished third. He can make the most of his light weight.
Some Lad (2.40) and Satanic Beat (4.50) were both successful at the last Newcastle meeting a couple of weeks ago and return with good prospects of completing quick course doubles.
2.20 Nesterenko (NAP), 2.50 Indian Voyage, 3.20 Lua de Itapoan, 3.55 Work Boy, 4.30 Rayak, 5.05 Rosie Du Berlais, 5.40 Hunters Hoof.
2.10 Katachenko, 2.40 Some Lad, 3.10 Solway Dornal, 3.40 Badger Foot, 4.15 Satanic Beat, 4.50 Baltic Pathfinder, 5.25 Highlander Ted.
Today’s other meetings: Lingfield and Wolverhampton.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Doncaster, Kempton, Stratford and Uttoxeter.