The bubble has well and truly burst for Gordon Elliot’s Samcro who was well beaten at Leopardstown on Saturday in the Ryanair Hurdle and it must be back to the drawing board for last season’s champion Novice Hurdler. The winner Sharjah is 10/1 from 14s for the Champion Hurdle at BetVictor although Buveur D’Air (5/4 from Evens after his Christmas Hurdle defeat at Kempton) heads the market at BetVictor as he bids for a hat-trick for Nicky Henderson.
Soft ground forecast at Uttoxeter where a market move for Flight Commander, having his first start for Olly Murphy, would be worth noting. The 9-y-old has had a wind operation since leaving Oliver Sherwood and is also fitted with cheekpieces for the first time. He must go close but preference, however, is for the novice Rollerball Rocco (1.40) who scored over C&D from a 10lbs lower mark on his chase debut for Charles Pogson before Christmas. As a 6-y-old he is open to significant improvement.
Aliandy is a horse I have plenty of time for and he looks sure to go close dropped back to 2m 4f with recent Ludlow winner Burrows Park in the field, but Turangi (2.10) failed to go on from a promising debut for Philip Hobbs on debut but could be well treated for his handicap and seasonal debut. It is well documented that the Hobbs’ yard were under a cloud last season and this lightly-raced inmate gets the each way vote.
The Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase is a cracker with Aintree My Dream likely to have been well schooled since blundering away his chance at Newcastle on his chase debut. New To This Town (2.45) went off just 6/1 for the Champion Bumper back in 2016 when trained by Jessica Harrington and certainly has the scope to jump a fence. The selection has been off the track since finishing runner up in a Novice Hurdle at Plumpton last December but that is not a concern given the form of the Colin Tizzard yard. He gets a narrow vote in a cracking race.
Over at Warwick and Head Lad (12.25) can make it third time lucky having finished runner up in both handicap hurdles to date. His second to Gaelic Flow at Stratford over 2m 2f back in October has been franked by the winner and he looked in need of further when again filling the silver medal position over 2m at Chepstow last time. A 6lbs rise is fair and Jonjo O’Neill takes off a valuable 5lbs.
Printing Dollars (12.55) is entitled to improve on her hurdles debut at Wincanton when second to a nice prospect of Paul Nicholls and this more galloping track should suit. The selection is a winning pointer and will get 3m in time, but Gavin Sheehan looks sure to make this a decent test.
Redmond (3.05) failed to get home over 3m at Exeter last time but his sound jumping will be an asset dropping back in trip by half a mile. Jack Barber doesn’t have the biggest string, but he has had a couple of winners in the last couple of weeks and I would be disappointed if Redmond did not run a big race.
At the time of writing Martyn Meade has had three runners from his last four runners and a market move for his debutant Crackling would be worth noting in the “Median” Auction Maiden at Lingfield. The vote however goes to Gin Palace (12.10) who again has a moderate draw to overcome, having been drawn out wide when dropped out in rear before coming home strongly at Kempton last time. If Charlie Bishop can get the juvenile into a decent position at the first turn I feel he will be tough to beat.
At Punchestown Ballyward (12.15) was placed at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals back in the spring and makes his chase debut for Willie Mullins this afternoon in the opening Beginners’ Chase. His stablemate C’est Jersey and Shady Operator will ensure the selection doesn’t have things all his own way in what should be a most informative opener.
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All the very best