Happy New Year!
A Sandown Park and Wincanton live double-header help usher in the first weekend action of 2015 on Channel 4 Racing this Saturday, with the first-named track hosting the lucrative Grade 1 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle as the day’s feature event at 2.25pm.
Courtesy of Minella Class in 2011, Captain Conan in 2012, and Royal Boy 12 months ago trainer Nicky Henderson has won three of the last four runnings of the £40,000 prize, and he looks to hold very strong claims of making it four from five, with classy youngster L’Ami Serge odds-on to strengthen his credentials for Cheltenham in March.
Available at 12/1 with the likes of BetVictor, Ladbrokes and Unibet for the Festival’s opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he’ll have to be sharp here to repel the likes of Jolly’s Cracked It and Shelford in a small but select line up (just four runners), but he has looked very slick in winning at Newbury and Ascot on his first two starts for team Henderson.
We’re not going to get rich by worrying about 1/2 shots in tiny fields though, so in search of a wager a few quid on the high class William’s Wishes in the two mile 32redsport.com Handicap Chase (run at 1.50pm) could be the way to go…
Fragile but blessed with an abundance of talent, this lad has won five of his even chasing starts to date, despite spending two separate lengthy spells on the sidelines due to injury.
It’s a credit to South Wales trainer Evan Williams that he’s managed to nurse this horse back from his latest hiccup, producing him to finish fourth of five in a hurdle race won by The New One at Haydock in November.
That obviously helped blow away the cobwebs, because on just his third spin since winning this race two years ago he was a solid sixth in the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, showing up well to collect prize money behind Dodging Bullets and company last time out.
That was a blinding effort, and back in handicap waters in a race he has taken before, he could well be ready to add to an already excellent strike-rate.
As you’d expect on a Saturday at Sandown it’s a thoroughly competitive race, and the likes of Mr Mole and Brick Red – who finished first and second in a Graduation Chase at Exeter last time out – will be looking to play a major part, but a back to form William’s Wishes could have too much in his locker for either of them.
By the time William’s Wishes leaves the paddock to do battle his stable may already have had reason to celebrate, with tough and improving mare Dark Spirit an attractive looking betting proposition in the listed 32red.com Mares’ Hurdle at 12.40pm.
She’s got a bit to do at the weights, but is proven far beyond this two and a half mile trip, a factor which could find out short-priced favourite Aurore D’Estruval.
John Quinn’s filly has bags of ability based on her win at Wetherby in November, and an even more impressive run when getting to within a length and three quarters of Irving in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle.
This is a different test though, and stepping up in trip on a demanding track like Sandown would scare me if I was considering parting with my hard earned dough, with Boylesports and Paddy offering just 10/11 about her.
Maybe class will see her through, but at 7/1 with bet365 and the two firms just mentioned you get a lot for your cash if you side with Dark Spirit.
What a certainty she must have been in retrospect at 3/1 for a seller at Leicester in October 2013!
That sparked a sequence which has seen her win four of her last five, culminating in a silky smooth handicap win at Ascot over 2m 6f.
This demands far, far more, but we know she’ll stay and is clearly improving at a rate of knots.
If Aurore D’Estruval does fail to get home then Dark Spirit could easily be the one to pick up the pieces.
Lastly, flying the flag for racing in the north of England on FA Cup third round weekend is Newcastle, where Brian Ellison’s Yorkist can bag his second win over fences with a victory in the S V Rutter Novices’ Chase at 12.30pm.
Rampant when going in a Carlisle at the end of November, his winner’s penalty is all but negated by jockey Nathan Moscrop’s five pound claim, and this former course winner over hurdles can bag a confidence boosting second chase strike.
Saturday’s best bets:
12.30 Newcastle – S V Rutter Novices’ Chase – 1 Yorkist (win)