As expected, Nicky Henderson has decided to wait for Sandown at the end of the month with his brilliant Champion Chase winner Altior, despite the fact that there is four weeks between Cheltenham and Aintree this year.
Having had just two starts this season that is disappointing news as I was looking forward to seeing Altior race beyond the minimum trip for the first time.
In his absence Champion Chase second Min is 6/4 market leader at BetVictor for Friday’s 2m 4f Grade 1 contest. Another high-profile defection is Burning Ambition from Thursday’s Foxhunters’ Chase – Colin Tizzard’s bold-jumping grey Grand Vision (6/1 with BetVictor) will be tough to pass.
The ground was described as good to soft (good in places) at Kempton on Sunday but there is significant rain expected on Sunday/Monday and for that reason alone I will bypass Working Class in the Novices Hurdle.
I am going to give another chance to Elixir De Nutz (2.30) who was highly tried on debut at a time when the Philip Hobbs yard were quiet. The grey was a winner of a Bumper in his native France back in October and it will be interesting to see what the market says of his prospects today.
Robin Dickin’s Under The Phone (4.10) is entitled to come on for his Huntingdon run back in February when he was returning from a 655-day break. The selection has won from a higher mark in the past, has won at this course over hurdles and may go under the radar of punters.
At Ludlow Sonnoefpresenting might be best watched on his return given the ground might be a shade too soft for the Kim Bailey-trained runner who represents a yard who could not be described as firing on all cylinders.
Dauphine Ereine has had her wind tweaked since finishing third at Cartmel on her British debut back in August but it might be significant that Tom Scudamore goes to Wincanton for just one ride leaving David Noonan to ride the French import. A check of the market is advised.
I felt Fourth Act (2.50) ran well in a better race at Sandown last time and can run from the same mark this afternoon. The selection’s second to Double Shuffle here a couple of years ago reads very well given the latter is now rated 32lbs higher.
Subcontinent (3.25) might not get things all his own way up front in the two-mile handicap hurdle with On Demand in the field but he improved ay Haydock last time and the form was franked by third horse home Secret Legacy who won at Uttoxeter on Saturday.
I thought Mick Thonic (3.55) ran much better than his finishing position would suggest when fourth at Hereford coming back from a wind op last month. He is 4lbs lower today and many racing pundits suggest the time to follow a horse post wind-op is on its second start after the procedure. Better ground would suit but he has run very well on soft ground in the past.
Adrien Du Pont (4.20) lost nothing in defeat at Sandown last time and should be able to pick up the front-running Rayvin Black in the Novices’ Chase at Wincanton.
As stated previously Tom Scudamore rides Dusky Hercules (5.25) for Pipe in the Bumper and this debutant is half-brother to four winners including the top class Bumper performer Black Hercules. The yard could not be described as being in a rich vein of form, but with Vieux Lion Rouge to come at Aintree on Saturday this is a big week for the yard and these colours.
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