A step-up in trip could put a certain Fergal O’Brien’s inmate on the ladder to success, according to Seymour Biz.
This weekend it’s all eyes across the water to the big festival at Punchestown just outside Dublin with some great racing such as the Irish Arkle, Champion Hurdle, Mares Hurdle and Gold Cup. Among the talent we can expect to see on show are Faugheen (hopefully), Melon, Jezki, Our Duke, Djakadam, Footpad, Yorkhill, Min and Un de Sceaux. This is a feast of racing and from this we can expect to find out if Willie Mullins squad are in form and ready to perform at Cheltenham in just over six weeks time. So, keeping one eye across the Irish Sea, I wll look at the comparatively meagre offerings here. However I still think there are some good priced winners to be found at the three TV meetings on Saturday. The main meeting at Sandown has Beveur D’Air declared for the 1.15 prior to racing coming on air in the Betfred Contenders Hurdle. He is also declared in Ireland for the Irish Champion Hurdle, but I think he will stay at Sandown. The furthest North TV cameras will venture is Musselburgh outside Edinburgh, and their County Hurdle and Edinburgh National will take place, an excellent card with some classy runners. A race from Wetherby completes the line up with the Towton Novices’ Chase, it has Barney Dwan as favourite. With all this exciting racing on offer, it will pay over the weekend to see where the top jockeys travel to, especially the stable retained jockeys who travel North for their trainers. I think Fountains Windfall looks good for the Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown but is not a fantastic price so I will look for some value elsewhere.
Let me start at Sandown with the 3.00, the Betfred Heroes Handicap Hurdle, Philip Hobbs’ Westend Story looks the likely candidate for this hot handicap.He won the 2016 Champion Bumper but did not come on from that, until he finally got his act together last time out at Wetherby, where he won pretty much as he liked. He has cost punters a small fortune over the last couple of years, going off and getting beat at short prices, but I think he will pay some of this back this weekend, he is at the head of the market but at a fair price. Topofthegame looks to be the main danger, and Paul Nicholls’s runners are always to be respected. Beaten only 3 lengths last time by William Henry is good form, he hadn’t run since November so that race could have shaken the cobwebs off him. Of the rest of the field Flemcara is going for a four timer and Prime Venture was unlucky last time when the jockey dropped the reins on the run in. I will however stick with the class of Westend Story.
The next race at Sandown is the Betfred Mobile Masters Handicap Chase, and this is another highly contested handicap with all the top trainers represented. Out of these classy chasers I am giving Yala Enki another chance, Venetia Williams’ charge ran a good race last time in the mud of Haydock and was only 16 lengths behind the winner in Somme-like conditions. He is due a win this season, he won two from four last year and has excuses for all his defeats this year. Ballydine looks a danger but he is also entered at Wetherby but I think he will probably take up this engagement, his last run at Leicester wasn’t particularly exciting but apparently he lost a shoe during the race. Pobbles Bay is another who hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed last year and could spring a surprise for Evan Williams, he was well beaten at Chepstow last time and may be a better prospect with better going. The Nicholls/Henderson pair have the top two in the betting Vyta Du Roc and Sametegal but between them they have only managed one win all season so they will need to improve to justify their price. I will take Yala Enki as the selection with Pobbles Bay as the best outsider.
At Wetherby at 2.40 is the tote sport.com Towton Novices Chase, a £35,000 Grade 2 contest. I really like the look of Fergal O’Brien’s Barney Dwan if he takes up this entry, as he has other entries both at Sandown and Musselburgh, his win in December at Market Rasen was very easy, he won going away. He was beaten in November by Ballyoptic who has since lost twice while I consider Barney Dwan is on the upgrade and is certainly due a win. Nicky Henderson has Terrefort entered, he won well in January and is looking for a quick follow up. At a bigger price Pearl Royale can go well, he won well at Wincanton on Boxing Day and Nigel Hawke has been looking for a place for him since, every chance. But Barney Dwan has the class and can take this.
Moving across the border into Scotland we have the bet365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase at 3.15 and I like another of Fergal O’Brien’s horses, Bells’N’Banjos. He stayed on well at Cheltenham last time finishing fifth to Cogry, he has not tried this distance before, but has won twice at just under three miles and now as an 8 year old is ready to step up to this. Missed Approach is favourite but his recent form is not wonderful and he has never won beyond three miles. Sue Smith sends out Delusionsofgrandeur, a triple winner in 2017, however another one stepping up in distance for the first time. At a bigger price Nick Kent’s eleven year old Gonalston Cloud could run a big race, he has won over 3 1/2 miles and ran fifth in a race only three furlongs shorter than this. Even so I will go for an improving Bells’N’Banjos.
Saturday Lucky 15 Tips
3.00 Sandown – Westend Story
3.35 Sandown – Yala Enki
2.40 Wetherby – Barney Dwan
3.15 Musselburgh – Bells’N’Banjos
Contact Seymour Biz, with your own thoughts, tips and questions, at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org