Today’s cards from Sandown Park and Ffos Las must pass morning inspections and the former have had to abandon their races on the hurdles course and will now stage an all-chase card if Clerk of the Course Andrew Cooper gives the green light this morning.
Only three go to post for the Sandown feature the Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and it is impossible to oppose Oscar Whisky (2.25) who will go straight to the Cheltenham Festival if, as expected, he sees off today’s two rivals who were not in the same class as the Nicky Henderson runner over hurdles.
Benvolio jumps well and should give the selection a good lead but connections would be very disappointed if Oscar Whisky didn’t enhance his claims for the JLT Novices’ Chase.
I was disappointed with the reappearance of Aachen (3.00) at Wetherby but he was entitled to come on for the run given he had been off the track for 20-months and the handicapper has dropped him 5lbs for that effort and he is taken to land the veterans chase.
One could argue that his stamina has to be taken on trust but he has won over 2m 6f at Towcester and all four of his British successes have been gained racing tight-handed. I expect to see a much better performance this afternoon.
Despite an absence of 644 days I am sweet on the chances of Roalco De Farges in the valuable 3m Chase. The Philip Hobbs yard remain in excellent form and the grey ran a cracker when last on the track finishing runner up to Tidal Bay in the 2012 Bet365 Chase from a 3lb higher mark.
Still only just turned nine the yard won the race back in 2010 with Monkerhostin and I expect a bold show.
The nap runs at Wetherby where Ice N Easy (2.10) can take this having looked an unlucky loser at Kempton on his reappearance over Xmas.
He has been raised 5lbs for that run but gave the impression he would appreciate the return to a left-handed track and he can run down the excellent No Planning who is best at this 2m 4f trip and is still feasibly handicapped.
Shutthefrontdoor (3.20) is reported to have had a wind operation since his last start and that might be enough to get his head in front in the feature Grade2 Towton Novices’ Chase; the selection was the horse to follow of champion jockey AP McCoy at the beginning of the season and he can fulfil his initial promise over fences in a race that lacks substance.
Linfield host a cracking all-weather card and there is an excellent mile handicap which Shamdarley (2.55) open to improvement back on polytrack having easily scored at Kempton on his penultimate start back in July from a 6lb lower mark.
He has never raced at Lingfield and has been called some rude names on occasions but he has an excellent draw and his 175-day absence is no concern.
Blue Wave (3.25) is on a hat-trick for Mark Johnston and, although 16lbs higher than when winning the first of these over C&D last month, is clearly in the form of his life and remains unexposed on an artificial surface.
I felt Mawaakef had an excellent chance at Kempton last time but he disappointed and must run from the same mark this afternoon.
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