Flame To Light Up Sandown
A disappointing week for racing with several fixtures succumbing to the weather, but solace can be found in the fact that the whole-scale havoc of last winter has been avoided and we have got off relatively lightly this season overall.
Wetherby has a mixed bag of a card on Saturday. The main attraction is the Grade 2 Novice Chase, which has attracted a very impressive field. There are currently horses entered from the Nicholls, Henderson, Venetia and Ian Williams stables but the two stand out entries are those from the Scottish based Lucinda Russell yard. She has entered Blenheim Brook and BOLD SIR BRIAN, and the latter looks the more promising. Stable jockey Peter Buchanan is booked for Bold Sir Brian and he appears to have the edge over his stable-mate . His win at Hexham was on heavy ground, and a winning margin of 17 lengths highlights his love of the mud, conditions the gelding should get on Saturday in the north.
Ffos Las has its Welsh Champion Hurdle card, and Oscar Whisky looks a strong candidate to successfully retain the title he won last year. Unfortunately he’s likely to be a skinny price and cannot be selected as a consequence. The other attraction is the West Wales National, with some hardened staying chasers turning out, including REY NACARADO for the Charlie Longsdon yard. He travelled fantastically to win a 3 miles 2 furlongs handicap on soft last time out, when successfully tipped up here by The Yorkshireman, and with improvement still to come, he can repeat the feat in Wales. Upped in trip and forecast heavy ground should suit this consistent type, who looks sure to give his usual resilient account of himself.
FIX THE RIB could go off a decent price in the two mile handicap chase. He is a horse gradually coming back to the form that he showed before a two year absence. He finished third to Master Minded in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in 2010, off a mark of 156. Now down to 134, he could be very well handicapped. A line can be put through both his comeback run and his Tingle Creek effort. He looked a little better when finishing a game 7th at Ascot and further improvement came over two and a half miles at Kempton, against what seemed like a good field. The drop back down to two miles should bring the best out of him, and the drying ground is likely to bring even more improvement, although soft wouldn’t completely kill his chances either.
The highlight of the card at Sandown is the Betfred Heroes handicap hurdle and I think SWINCOMBE FLAME is the best bet of the weekend. The Nick Williams star mare has been raised 6lb by the handicapper for her win in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. She smashed the last hurdle, and needed reminding to get up to the line, but stayed on well and got up, albeit at the expense of a whip ban for jockey Will Kennedy. This trip is over an extra furlong, and should bring further improvement against exposed sorts. She is still only having her fifth run of the season and looks very progressive. The only serious danger looks to be the well handicapped Thehillofuisneach.
The last race to be shown on Channel 4 is an interesting renewal and Nicky Henderson has two entered, and both have solid chances. I’d quite happily row in with his MASTER OF THE HALL or BURTON PORT, whichever Henderson selects of the two. Burton Port has always been one of my favourite horses, after I backed him ante post at big prices in the RSA chase at Cheltenham 2010 where he finished a solid second to Weapons Amnesty. His second in last years Hennessy, sandwiched between Diamond Harry and Denman, is a strong form line and, if recovered from injury, he could be a massive threat to them all. Master of the Hall looked good when defeating Nacarat and subsequent winner Tamarinbleu at Aintree. He refused to race last time but there should be more to come from an eight year old with some very strong novice form.
2.00 Sandown – Fix the Rib
3.05 Sandown – Swincombe Flame (Nap)
3.40 Sandown – Master of the Hall/Burton Port
2.15 Wetherby – Bold Sir Brian
3.20 Ffos Las – Rey Nacarado
The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner @JJMSports
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