FOU ET SAGE (Best price 6-1) is reported to be in great order at home and has schooled well in preparation for his debut for the Harry Whittington stable. A spell with Dan Skelton didn’t work out brilliantly for the French import, but he has subsequently won over fences in his native country before rejoining another excellent British stable in time for this season. Fitness won’t be an issue for the five-year-old and neither will experience so he could be some value to topple Double W’s.
A tricky heat with any number of possible outcomes and preference for MISS CRICK (Best price 9-4) narrowly gains the vote as she is well suited by a flat left-handed track on decent ground. She appeared to be thriving when last seen bolting up at Worcester and is fancied to come out on top of a duel with the versatile Stephanie Frances.
Nigel Twiston-Davies enjoyed notable success yesterday at the Yorkshire venue with a 22-1 double and BALLYOPTIC (Best price 2-1) could give the Gloucestershire handler further reason to cheer in the bet365 Hurdle. Today’s Grade 2 event will again be a stiff examination of his resolve and determination, but he displayed those attributes in abundance in his short career to date, not least when turning away Bellshill in an Aintree Grade 1 Hurdle in the spring. He was reportedly short of condition at Chepstow when landing a nice prize on his comeback and can improve again.
Trainer Colin Tizzard was understandably delighted Thistlecrack emerged from his chasing debut with flying colours this week and he has the opportunity to strengthen a powerful Gold Cup hand courtesy of the admirable CUE CARD. Last season’s bet365 Charlie Hall Chase winner would have exerted an influence in the conclusion of the blue riband event in March but for falling three fences from home when travelling strongly. Indeed, Cue Card’s record when returning from an absence in excess of six months reads 111341 so he should be capable of arriving at Wetherby ready to roll. However, he is going to be no great price and it could be worth backing VIRAK (Best price 7-2) in the markets without the hot favourite. Paul Nicholls’ charge has had this race as his target since July and won’t lack for any fitness. A flat, left-handed track suits him well and he could exploit any ring-rustiness in his rivals if they aren’t fully tuned up.£10 Free Credit and a £500 Deposit Bonus
This doesn’t appear a race that is that enticing for a punter but it could be worth taking a small chance with CRIMSON ARK (Best price 7-2) even if he makes his chasing debut at a decent level. A lack of experience could be a concern for the selection but he is an Irish point winner and his latest effort in a prestigious Chepstow handicap behind Ballyoptic suggests he can make his mark in this sphere.
Unfortunately, the fancy prices about YORKIST (Best price 11-4) have long since disappeared but he could still prove the answer to this race. Dan Skelton is swiftly becoming a terrific target trainer and the eight-year-old starts the season off a favourable mark due to a few subdued efforts at the tail end of last season.I would imagine no stone has been left unturned getting the gelding ripe for his return and he gains the vote ahead of last year’s runner up Pearls Legend and 2014 winner Ulck Du Lin who is reported very well.
CH’TIBELLO (Best price 3-1) has been aimed at this race for some time and a recent dry spell will play to the strengths of a horse blessed with plenty of pace. The selection impressed in the Scottish Champion Hurdle before running another excellent race in the Swinton last May and he was runner-up to the classy Altior here on this card 12 months ago so clearly likes the track. Having saver on a Philip Hobbs-trained hurdler served this column well last weekend when Golden Doyen obliged, so STERNRUBIN (Best price 8-1) makes plenty of appeal at a track he loves. The decent ground will be in the five-year-old’s favour and he also goes well fresh so is crying out to be supported too.
Tea For Two and SAPHIR DU RHEU (Best price 7-2) look major players in this handicap with marginal preference for the latter who is said to be showing the right signs at home. Last season was an annus horribilis for the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding who promised plenty when scoring on his reappearance at Carlisle but failed to kick on from that point. Reports suggest he is in great form ahead of this year’s return and he should make his presence felt back in handicap company. I have been waiting for VOIX D’EAU (Best price 8-1) to tackle three miles for a while now so he can’t run unbacked given he returns to a right-handed track and will surely improve for his Chepstow comeback.
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