PAUL Nicholls had a day to remember last Saturday with big race wins for Silviniaco Conti, Tidal Bay, Kauto Stone and Cristal Bonus, and he is set to unleash another powerful squad at his local track, Wincanton, tomorrow afternoon.
The big betting race on the card is the Badger Ales Trophy (3.25pm) which the champion trainer has landed for three of the past four years. There will be plenty of supporters for Michel Le Bon, who is certain to go off favourite, but I’m worried that his only chasing success came in a four runner race, and he is likely to be very short.
November is normally Emma Lavelle’s best month of the season and it’s looking like business as usual this year. The Hampshire trainer has won with three of her last four runners and she has some fascinating entries at Wincanton, none more so than ZARRAFAKT.
The eight-year-old has won three and finished a head second in his four seasonal debuts so far. That second at Newbury just over a year ago was quite unlucky, yet, for the first time in his career, he bounced back to win his second start, admittedly nearly two months later, over tomorrow’s course and distance.
That was an exceptional performance and once again underlined his prowess when fresh. With the Lavelle yard in red-hot form, and the presence of a Nicholls hotpot in the field, Zarrafakt should be an each-way price and I would be very surprised if he finished out of the first two.
Although Nicholls might be disappointed in the Badger Ales, I thoroughly expect him to win his third Elite Hurdle in four years in the preceding race at 2.50pm. Zarkandar, last year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, will be a warm order, but I think he will struggle to give 17lb to stablemate PROSPECT WELLS, the mount of Ruby Walsh.
The Graham Wylie-owned seven-year-old produced some excellent performances last season, including a fifth in the Supreme Novices’, and although he will eventually appreciate stepping up in trip, he looks well-handicapped for tomorrow’s race.
Nicholls will be hoping to get off to a flyer in the opening race (12.35pm) if The Mole takes his chance. He was Team Ditcheat’s first ever runner for JP McManus and the son of Great Pretender got off the mark in impressive style at Exeter.
However, he has to carry a 6lb penalty for that performance and the horse he beat, Jeremy Scott’s MELODIC RENDEZVOUS, is fancied to reverse the form. My selection finished second to Champagne Fever in the Champion Bumper at the Punchestown Festival in May and can get off the mark over hurdles at the second attempt.
MELODIC RENDEZVOUS 12.35pm Wincanton (tomorrow)
PROSPECT WELLS 2.50pm Wincanton (tomorrow)
ZARRAFAKT e/w 3.25pm Wincanton (tomorrow)