Another weekend of intriguing action awaits racing fans with a number of high profile horses making their seasonal returns with early festival clues sure to be on offer as some of last year’s rivals go head-to-head.
We've picked out five horses who it might be worth following both this weekend and for the season ahead.
BALLYOPTIC - 14.45 Wetherby
One of last season’s most exciting novice hurdlers, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 6yo made no mistake on his reappearance at Chepstow 21 days ago to land the Grade 3 Totepool Silver Trophy. Currently as short as 12/1 for the World Hurdle in March, another victory on Saturday would surely see those odds shorten further.
MODUS - 15.00 Ascot
The 2m Handicap Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday looks a race full of potential with a number of unexposed sorts look set to battle it out. Of those, Paul Nicholls’ Modus could be the most intriguing. The 6yo was a big-money purchase for connections in 2015 after showing strong bumper form that season and he started life under his new trainer with two successes over hurdles.
However, it was downhill from that point with disappointing performances in the Betfair Hurdle and the Vincent O’Brien. Off since that effort at Cheltenham in March, connections would be hopeful the horse can prove better than his current handicap mark.
BLAKLION - 15.20 Wetherby
Another one from the Twiston-Davies team, Blaklion also enjoyed an impressive season last year, culminating in a fine success in the Grade 1 RSA Chase at the Festival. Whilst that form is strong, it is of course some way short of what odds-on favourite for Saturday’s race Cue Card has achieved.
Currently 33/1 in the ante-post market for the Gold Cup in March, if Blaklion can get the better of the aging Cue Card (himself as short as 8/1 for the big one), then he will certainly be considered as a genuine Gold Cup contender.
SAPHUIR DE RHEU - Ascot 15.35
Potentially one of the most frustrating horses in training at the moment for a number of punters, Paul Nicholls’ 7yo seems to have been around forever. Second in the 2015 World Hurdle, he started his chasing career with two emphatic successes in races where the form still stacks up. A decent enough fifth place in last year’s Hennessey off top weight was nothing to sniff at but connections then decided to go back hurdling and a return to the World hurdle followed where he finished a distant sixth of 12. He then ended the season with two runs over fences and was well beaten in both.
There was some confusion as to what connections had planned for him this season but it seems chasing will be the name of the game and long-term fans of the horse will be hoping he can reach his full potential over the bigger obstacles.
TYCOON PRINCE - Monday 15.45 Wexford
Although not strictly running at the weekend, Tycoon Prince still warrants a mention. Although he didn’t run up to expectations on a number of starts last season but was impressive when on song and there remains a huge amount of potential for a horse who has won 4 of his 8 races in his career. His trainer Gordon Elliott revealed the 6yo has undergone a wind operation since his last start and the hopes are he will prove a natural over fences. Still a young horse, he could be one to follow in the Novice events in Ireland this season.