The unbeaten Envoi Allen is 6/4 (from 7/4) with BetVictor for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle after his impressive win in the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday. Trainer Gordon Elliot is not ruling out last year’s Champion Bumper winner from running in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle although I felt the horse improved for the step up in trip at the weekend and would be surprised if he dropped back to the minimum distance in March.
In the opener at Taunton Philip Hobbs saddles two; the unbeaten French import For Langy – who is fitted with a hood for the first time – and the recent course winner Masters Legacy (1.00) who steps up in distance by three furlongs having won over the minimum trip here last month when he could be called the winner from some way out.
Owner/amateur rider David Maxwell paid E150,000 for For Langy back in the summer after the five-year-old had scored in the French provinces. It is hard to get an angle on the form but the third horse home – Fil D’Ariane – has been beaten twice since he moved to Tom Symonds including by 16L at Wincanton on Saturday. The betting should provide valuable clues.
Those with hurdling experience don’t look any great shakes in the 1st division of the 2m Maiden Hurdle and it will be interesting to see what the market makes of the chance of Buzz (1.30) who makes his hurdling debut for Nicky Henderson. The grey was a useful sort on the level – rated 96 – and changed hands for £80,000 at a horses-in-training sale back in October. He will handle the soft ground well enough and should have no problems with the trip, but how will he take to eight flights of hurdles?
I’m looking forward to seeing Envoye Special (2.30) drop back to the minimum trip in the novices’ handicap chase and it would be no surprise if Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden allow him to bowl along in front. The selection has not been getting home over an additional half-mile so far this season as he has refused to settle. His best run so far in Britain was when leading to two out at Kempton over the minimum trip back in March. He won’t get an easy lead with Good Man Jim and Our Merlin in the field but, if he is more amenable to restraint, and I admit it is a big if, he is potentially well treated at present.
In the valuable handicap hurdle I hope to see Prudhomme (3.00) improve for the step up in trip and leave behind his run at Ffos Las when a beaten odds-on favourite. The selection – who is a half-brother to the talented Pont Alexandra – has had a wind operation since that disappointing run in south Wales but looks fairly treated, on his previous Uttoxeter form, for his handicap debut.
Captain Cattistock is likely to be all the rage on his Hunter Chase debut for Paul Nicholls having been bought privately by David Maxwell since finishing third in a decent handicap chase at Chepstow last month.
The each way vote, however, goes to Wishing And Hoping (3.30) who was a horse I had plenty of time for when trained by Alan King and has been making hay between the flags since returning from a lengthy absence. Do note however that the horse would not want conditions to be too testing with conditions described as good to soft at noon on Monday.
At Lingfield Seeanythingyoulike (1.45) won with his head in his chest at Warwick on New Year’s Eve and, if in the same mood, will be very difficult to beat, carrying just a 7lbs penalty. Note the selection is also entered in two races on Thursday and you get the impression trainer Jeremy Scott is of the opinion that the handicapper will have his say when his 9-y-old is reassessed for his Warwick victory.
Destinee Royale (2.15) won a Towcester Bumper on her rules debut and ran a very good race on her hurdles debut when third over an additional half mile here back in February. That form has been franked in the interim period and the drop back in trip should not be an inconvenience. If fit and ready first time out, she will be tough to beat although her 11-month absence is a concern.
Easter Gold is the obvious danger having blundered badly at the last when looking to be coming with a winning run here over C&D last month.