There are no Champion Hurdlers in tomorrow’s line-up, but the first place to start is with David Pipe’s Decoy who was an impressive winner of a handicap at Cheltenham in November. He couldn’t follow up at Ascot the following week when beaten by Featherbed Lane, but he tends to go well fresh and the break should have done him some good.
The six-year-old will try to burn them off from the front, but I have a feeling that could set things up for a closer and he’s seven pounds higher than at Cheltenham. Philip Hobbs’ Featherbed Lane demolished his rivals at Aintree last month, but he’s gone up 15lb for that. Swincombe Flame, for the in-form Nick Williams yard, must also be considered, but she has stamina doubts.
Another stable which is on fire at the moment is Dr Richard Newland’s and his ACT OF KALANISI is the selection at around 10/1. Regular readers will remember me putting him up at 20/1 in the Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot last month. He travelled like the winner rounding the home turn that day, but it had been a slowly run race and he was tapped for toe over a trip slightly too short. The step up to 2m5f is certain to suit and the stable have had three winners and a second from their last four runners.
Warwick stages the Betfred Classic Chase (3.40pm) tomorrow and Hey Big Spender tops the weights. Colin Tizzard’s runner is a gutsy performer, but it will be very tough for him conceding weight to his rivals. Alan King has won the last two runnings of this race and relies on Blazing Bailey who is not without a chance at 10/1 with Blue Square. He has a great record in January, but I have a feeling that his Welsh National run could have left its mark.
Brian Ellison has made a tremendous start to 2012 and NEPTUNE EQUESTER can land this valuable prize at 13/2 with Coral. He finished fifth in the Rowland Meyrick last time, but that race wasn’t run to suit and he will appreciate this stamina test. He does hit flat spots, though, so may be one to back in-running on Betdaq.
With 60 days to go until the start of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, the time is right to start building our ante-post portfolio. We had plenty of success last season with the likes of Bostons Angel and Noble Prince and hopefully we can unearth a few gems this time around.
The opening race of the meeting is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and this year’s renewal has a decidedly open looking feel. I cannot remember the market being headed by a 10/1 shot this close to the meeting and even though Steps To Freedom looks solid, he is opposable.
At the current prices I’m keen to take the 20/1 about Alan King’s MONTBAZON who made a pleasing debut over hurdles behind Colour Squadron recently on ground that would have been far too soft. He looks like one who’ll appreciate some better spring ground and the strong pace he’ll get in this cavalry charge. He has always been the apple of his trainer’s eye and looks an exciting prospect.
Another hurdle race yet to take shape is the Triumph Hurdle as no real four-year-old hurdling star has emerged. Baby Mix was impressive when beating Hinterland at Cheltenham, but I’d like to see him follow up before supporting him.
I’m prepared to take a chance on two really well-regarded Irish runners UT DE SIVOLA (14/1 general) and MINSK (12/1 with Coral) who could easily leap to the head of the market if impressing in the coming weeks. The former is expected to win this weekend, while the latter is not far away from making his debut.
Whilst talking about the Festival, on Monday March 12, Fairway to Furlong will be holding the second Official Cheltenham Festival Golf Day at the world renowned Celtic Manor, all in aid of Seve Ballesteros and Cancer Research. City A.M. will be attending this fantastic event, as we did last year, with the confirmed Festival preview panel including David Pipe, Jason Maguire, Mick Fitzgerald and Derek Thompson.
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ACT OF KALANISI e/w 10/1 Kempton(2.50pm tomorrow)
NEPTUNE EQUESTER e/w 13/2 Warwick (3.40pm tomorrow)
MONTBAZON e/w 20/1 Supreme Novices’, Cheltenham
MINSK e/w 12/1 Triumph Hurdle, Cheltenham
UT DE SIVOLA e/w 14/1 Triumph Hurdle, Cheltenham