The frost covers have been deployed at Sandown and no problems are expected ahead of today’s feature card. The big betting race of the weekend is the 17-runner Veteran’s Handicap Chase Final and BetVictor are betting each way 1/5th odds five places on the race.
Pete The Feat had his 15th birthday earlier in the week but has already won this race as a teenager two years ago and it would be a remarkable, but not impossible, feat if he could win again. My two against the field, however, are Rathlin Rose (10/1 with BetVictor) and Le Reve (3.00) with preference for the latter who is also priced at 10s with BetVictor.
The selection made a promising comeback from a 571-day lay-off at Warwick and he has been dropped a couple of pounds for that effort. His career record shows that he is best going right-handed and did win over today’s C&D from a 9lbs higher mark, albeit the best part of two years ago. Lucy Wadham has her string in excellent form and I would be disappointed if the 11-year-old did not run a big race.
The feature event is the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle and Rathhill (2.25) was one of a trio of fancied entries in the JP McManus colours earlier in the week, but connections have decided to run just Nicky Henderson’s impressive Newbury winner.
As soon as the horse crossed the line at the Berkshire track, Henderson suggested that he had this race in mind for his six-year-old and at 5/4 with BetVictor he looks a worthy market leader. Colin Tizzard’s Elixir De Nutz looks the main danger given the form of his defeat of Jarveys Plate (received 10lbs) at Cheltenham last month was franked when the winner scored back at Cheltenham in a listed contest at New Year.
Darius Des Bois (1.20) who was run out of it close home at Ludlow over 3m on his chase debut drops back half a mile in trip in a cracking novices’ handicap chase. The Henderson-trained 6-y-old has the scope to jump fences and is open to significant improvement with that Ludlow experience under his belt.
The mare Laurina (1.50) is only 5/1 with BetVictor for the Champion Hurdle and she begins her road to Cheltenham in the listed Mares’ Hurdle. Last season’s impressive Mares’ Novice Hurdle winner at the Festival has scared the opposition away today and is 1/6 to make a winning reappearance for Willie Mullins against just three opponents.
Monsieur Lecoq was an impressive winner at Ffos Las last time and looks on a very good mark for the concluding handicap hurdle, but the same can be said of Thistimenextyear (3.35) who was caught close home on heavy ground here from a 5lbs lower mark last time. Today’s better ground should suit, and trainer Richard Spencer had a winner on the level earlier in the week. The selection is 7/2 with BetVictor.
There is a good card at Wincanton and Copain De Classe (3.15) will appreciate underfoot conditions and the return to a right-hand track. The selection is 7/2 with BetVictor and Bryony Frost takes over in the saddle for the first time.
Winston C (3.50) ran a highly promising hurdles debut at Huntingdon when third behind the exciting Brewin’Upastorm and he is taken to break his maiden tag in the concluding maiden hurdle.
I am going to give Ravenhill Road (12.25) a last chance over fences at Newcastle for Brian Ellison. The selection was reported to have bled when third – beaten just a length – over C&D last time when he travelled like the class act for most of the race.
If you thought Plumpton’s Sunday meeting was just about the Sussex National, then think again as connections of the exciting novice chaser Knocknanuss and French raider Master Dino – who has won his last five starts – run in the Novices’ Chase with the £60,000 bonus for winning at the track and then following up at the Cheltenham Festival in March clearly at the back of their minds.
The big race at Naas is the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle and Tornado Flyer (1.50) who finished third in the Champion Bumper last season can maintain his unbeaten record over hurdles having created a very favourable impression when scoring at Punchestown on debut – he does have a habit of racing keenly and a true run race would suit. The selection is 13/8 at BetVictor.