Andy Holding is back with four tips for today's action.
SHARED (best price 9/1) ran out quite an impressive winner on hurdles debut at Wetherby 10 days ago and despite today’s assignment demanding more, there’s a decent chance Harry Derham’s gelding can prove equal to the task.
Somehow allowed to go off 25/1 at the Yorkshire venue, the son of Almanzor was always travelling as though likely to outrun those odds and so it proved, as he strode out nicely in the closing stages to win with a degree of authority.
Quite good on the numbers for a juvenile (ran the quickest final circuit on the card), the other feature of his performance was his slick jumping at pace so, with him having already proved he can handle a decent test at the trip, this promising four-year-old can provide his in-form rookie handler with a notable success.
GAILLARD DU MESNIL (best price 3/1), for reasons hard to explain, has never really gained the credit his performances deserve and, with most of the attention heavily focused on his two main market rivals, Willie Mullins’ grey can sneak in under the radar and quieten one or two of his detractors.
Third in this race last year, the son of Saint Des Saints went on to fill the same position in both the Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham and the Irish Grand National thereafter but despite all those top class performances, he amazingly ended the season still a maiden over fences.
Returning to action after a 230-day break, the seven-year-old was pitched into the white-hot heat of the Grade 1 Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse and although he ended up getting beaten fair and square on the day by Mighty Potter, the way he jumped and travelled throughout the 2m4f journey suggested he was in for a bright season.
Well backed to break a series of fine placed efforts, he finally delivered the goods as a chaser by landing the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Chase over three miles here at the Christmas meeting and while many chose to focus on the demise of others and how the race fell apart, the time figure suggested he’d run to his usual high standard.
Now with form figures at the Dublin venue of 1131 courtesy of that victory, he does hold a significant advantage over the rest of the field on that score alone and if you take into account he should also be on a more level playing field with Mighty Potter fitness-wise compared to when they first met this season, it doesn’t seem such a dumb ideal to make a strong case for him turning the tables here today.
Toothless was bound to be a popular choice following his 30-length victory for new connections at Fakenham, but that race was a bit of an egg and spoon affair compared to the one he faces today and GENERAL OFFICER (best price 11/4) rates the strongest of the main two opponents standing firm for the Northern scene.
Donald McCain’s former point winner has taken really well to hurdles and on the evidence of his first two victories, he also seems to like today’s C&D. Strongly fancied to complete his hat trick at Catterick last time out, the combination of tacky ground and 2m4f just stretched the son of Soldier Of Fortune to the limit up against a horse who simply outstayed him late on, but with his two main market rivals well beaten off, it probably wasn’t as a bad a run as first feared.
A confirmed front runner, it will be interesting to see how Brian Hughes goes about today’s race given his main market rival also made all last time out, but either way, back over his optimum trip and ground, he surely has a better chance of maintaining his unbeaten track record than his morning odds imply.