Fox Norton (4/7 with BetVictor) will head a field of seven who go to post for Saturday’s Tingle Creek Chase after Douvan, as was expected, was taken out of the race at the 48-hour declaration stage by Willie Mullis who reported to he was not 100% happy with the horse.
Gas Line Boy has been rerouted from the Becher Chase (Blaklion 5/2 from 3/1 favourite at BetVictor) to the Grand Sefton Chase over a shorter trip and it would be no surprise if the Ian Williams-trained gelding (7/1 at BetVictor) did not go off market leader for Saturday’s Aintree contest.
Sedgefield has passed an early inspection where overnight frost was the danger but there were no such concerns for Sandown where conditions are described as good to soft.
In the Limited Novices’ Handicap over 2m 4f Touch Kick (1.55) ran a good race over today’s C&D in a better race on his chase debut and he must go close especially if the ground is as forecast. The handicapper has seen fit to drop the selection a couple of pounds and he is entitled to come on for his first start over the larger obstacles.
Dan Skelton’s chasing debutant Right Of Reply has experience over fences in the point field and shaped with promise when having his first start for the yard at Kempton over timber. I’m not convinced he has been crying out for a drop in trip although he attracted support last time and it will be interesting to see if the market again speaks in his favour.
The Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle is the feature and Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side (2.30) can maintain his unbeaten record despite having to carry a 5lbs penalty for last month’s Cheltenham success over slightly further. The selection looked a potential stayer last time but connections must feel he can cope with this slight drop back in trip.
There are any number of unexposed types in the field including Springtown Lake and White Moon but I was very taken with the Henderson runner last time and he gets the nod.
Beggar’s Wishes (3.05) has been raised 6lbs for his recent Sedgefield success on his chase debut but that rise is largely negated by his talented conditional’s 5lbs claim. The selection had hinted that he might make a better chaser than hurdler and connections appear to have decided that two miles is his trip. He will have to sharpen up his jumping over the Sandown fences but he is unexposed and gets a narrow vote from Bally Gilbert who ran better than his finishing position would suggest last time.
At Exeter, I’m looking forward to the hurdles debut of The Russian Doyen (1.00) who has shaped with considerable promise in two Bumper starts so far this season and is certainly bred for the job.
Flaming Charmer has been raised 8lbs for his recent Chepstow race and is now running off a career high mark, but is a C&D winner and Colin Tizzard has his string in excellent form. Calipto showed little on his reappearance but De Dollar Man is a horse I have a lot of time for and today’s drop back in trip should not be an inconvenience.
The vote, however, goes to Chosen Well (2.05) despite the fact that he is returning from a 743-day lay-off for Alan King. The selection is 7lbs lower than when running a race full of promise on his chase debut albeit two years ago but he has run well fresh in the past. The former point winner will get further in time, but the handicapper has given him a chance and it will be interesting to see what the market says.
Modus (2.40) has 3lbs in hand of West Approach on revised figures but the latter didn’t travel or jump with any fluency whilst I was very impressed with the Paul Nicholls-trained novice at Wincanton last time and will be disappointed if he doesn’t make it three out of three over fences.
Yanmare (3.15) is a thorough stayer who I felt was just about to take over when coming down two out last month. His fencing is always going to be a concern, but this marathon trip is just what he needs and he gets in off just 10st 4lbs this afternoon.