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Lancashire Telegraph racing column
7:00am Monday 16th December 2013 in Sport
All eyes will turn to Plumpton on Monday as Rock On Ruby makes his eagerly-anticipated debut over fences in the Winter Gala Novices’ Chase.
Winner of the 2012 Champion Hurdle when officially under the care of Paul Nicholls, the eight-year-old last season switched to rookie handler Harry Fry, who had overseen most of his preparations during the previous campaign.
A fine third on his comeback in the International Hurdle before winning a specially-arranged trial race at Doncaster, Rock On Ruby went down fighting in his defence of the Champion Hurdle crown, finding only the brilliant Hurricane Fly too strong.
After considering their options over the summer, connections initially decided against a novice chase campaign to give the Champion Hurdle another stab, but the season did not get off to the best of starts.
Rock On Ruby was firmly put in his place by The New One at Kempton, and while the winner is clearly destined for the top, Fry was understandably disappointed with the way his pride and joy was swept aside.
After discovering a breathing problem had resurfaced, one that this time could not be totally rectified, his team switched direction and decided to head over the larger obstacles.
This will be a decisive day for Rock On Ruby as if he does not take to chasing, it is difficult to see where he will go.
If he does lift a leg, he should have far too many gears for these opponents and perhaps a potential Arkle bid will go to the top of the agenda given his obvious love for Cheltenham.
Proud Welshman Evan Willams loves a winner Ffos Las and could be in for a good day a the Carmarthenshire track.
Still Believing can strike gold on her first attempt over fences in the Walters Land Novices’ Handicap Chase.
A point to point winner in October 2012, she enjoyed a few spins over hurdles last season but Williams was clearly marking time for a chase campaign.
The five-year-old was a winner at this track last March and was far from disgraced when returned to action back at the same venue last month.
While she was beaten some 19 lengths by the winner, she would have been second rather than third had she not made a costly stumble at the last.
That run should have set her up nicely for this assignment.
Zarzal should also be on the mark for the Williams team in the Pennant Walters Handicap Hurdle.
The five-year-old was a winner over fences at the fourth attempt last time, prevailing by just a short head over Last Shot at Ludlow.
Previously beaten out of sight by Taquin De Seuil, Zarzal turned in a much better round of jumping that day and looks capable of defying his subsequent 7lb rise in the ratings.
Severiano is perhaps not one of Roger Varian’s brightest lights, but the Ladbrokes Maiden Stakes at Wolverhampton looks a gilt-edged opportunity for him to get off the mark.
The son of Danehill Dancer looked a promising prospect when runner-up on his debut at Lingfield back in March, finding only the more experienced hot favourite Bright Strike too strong - a horse who now has a three-figure rating.
Severiano, on the other hand, went backwards, finishing last of 11 when strongly fancied for his turf debut at Newcastle, leaving more questions than answers.
He ran much better when third back on the all-weather at Kempton in July, but still left the impression there was more in the tank.
Returning from a five-month break, if he can get anywhere near the form of that debut run, he should beat this lot out of sight.
FFOS LAS: 12.25 Ivanhoe, 12.55 It’s A Doddle, 1.30 STILL BELIEVING (NAP), 2.05 Rolling Maul, 2.40 Seymour Eric, 3.15 Zarzal, 3.50 Imagine The Chat.
PLUMPTON: 12.10 Chase The Wind, 12.40 Rock On Ruby, 1.15 Call The Cops, 1.45 Glenwood Prince, 2.20 Night Of Passion, 2.55 Goring Two, 3.30 Our Phylli Vera.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 1.55 Fujin Dancer, 2.30 Matraash, 3.05 Odin, 3.40 Sydney James, 4.10 Power Up, 4.40 Severiano, 5.10 Fame Again
DOUBLE: Still Believing and Rock On Ruby.
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