BetVictor’s Charlie McCann previews the weekend cards.
Monalee did us a favour at Clonmel on Thursday and was cut to 14/1 from 20s at BetVictor for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next month where he will reoppose his Navan conqueror Death Duty who is the 2/1 market leader from 9/4.
Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper suggested underfoot conditions would be “proper winter soft ground” for today’s excellent seven-race card and I am going to give Alan King’s Coeur De Lion (12.40) a chance to atone for last month’s C&D defeat at the hands of Don Persy. The latter received 6lbs from the selection on that occasion and Don Persy showed that was no fluke when following up at Warwick.
On this occasion, Coeur De Lion receives weight from his older rivals including a stone from Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be who has won both starts over timber so far this term.
Just the four go to post in the listed Contenders Hurdle and connections of Buveur D’Air (1.50) revert to timber despite the fact that last year’s Supreme third was unbeaten in two starts over the larger obstacles. He was all out to land the odds at Warwick back in December, however, and connections must feel he is worth a crack at the Champion Hurdle next month with favourite Faugheen yet to see the track since January 2016. The Henderson horse is 6/1 with BetVictor for the Champion and he must win this in receipt of 4lbs from Irving if he is to have any aspirations of becoming champion hurdler at the Festival.
As much as I am an admirer of Sean Bowen I am disappointed that connections have seen fit to jock-off Sam Twiston-Davies from Clan Des Obeaux (2.25) in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase for Paul Nicholls. I am a big fan of the five-year-old who lost little in defeat when runner up at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, when a bad mistake two out did not help his cause, and he receives 3lbs weight-for-age this afternoon from his four rivals.
The Paul Nicholls yard have been out of sorts in recent weeks which is a concern, but I’m not convinced Top Notch is quite what his name suggests and the hope is that the first-time tongue tie helps the selection who is 7/4 market leader at BetVictor.
Otago Trail (3.35) was no match for Bristol de Mai in the Peter Marsh at Haydock last time but that was still a good effort and I’ve always thought the horse is better served going right-handed. The nine-year-old did have a hard race only a fortnight ago which tempers confidence in the selection but he might just be a bit better class to today’s seven rivals many of whom have stamina to prove.
Great to see Gold Cup winning jockey Nico de Boinville back in the saddle following injury, and the hope is that he can steer Nicky Henderson’s Gaitway (12.25) to success in the Musselburgh opener. The selection ran a decent race on his comeback from a two-year lay-off at Cheltenham back in December and he was considered a decent prospect by connections when winning a Newbury bumper on debut, albeit the best part of three years ago now.
Drumcliff (3.15) has been raised 3lbs for finishing runner-up at Kempton over Xmas but looked an unlucky loser, meeting trouble in running, and can go one better for Harry Fry and Noel Fehily. The selection was well backed but withdrawn on account of the soft ground at Cheltenham last weekend and can take the competitive listed Scottish County Hurdle. Drumcliff is 11/4 with BetVictor and must go close given there is plenty of pace in the race.
At Wetherby I would be sweet on the chances of Oldgrangewood (1.40) if it were not for the form of the Dan Skelton yard who have had their fair share of winners but had a couple run well below expectations too. The 6-year-old is only 4lbs higher than when scoring over C&D last time when he jumped and travelled like a decent horse. Ffos Las winner West Wizard has not reached the heights many thought he was capable of but is still lightly-raced although 8lbs higher than when scoring back in December.
The Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase is a cracker and I hope that Missed Approach (2.45) can outstay his rivals for Warren Greatrex in a good renewal of this Grade 2 prize. The selection is 9/4 with BetVictor and that looks a fair price if he gets into the same jumping rhythm as at Lingfield last time. Showers are forecast in west Yorkshire and that would certainly suit the selection.
At Taunton tomorrow do keep an eye out for Big Windmill (3.20) who jumped the first three fences well at Ludlow on his chase debut but stumbled after the fence and unseated Adrian Heskin – if his confidence hasn’t been affected he must go close with Nicholls’ chase debutant Contre Tous considered the danger.
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