DUKE OF CLARENCE (1.05) was a very expensive failure at Kempton last month but he embarks on a recovery mission at Lingfield tomorrow. Richard Hannon’s two-year-old was a red-hot whisper all day at the Sunbury venue and stable confidence was reflected in his skinny starting price of 6-4. However, he ran greener than a Celtic strip and his backers knew their fate when he lost his place before the home bend. Duke Of Clarence eventually ran on into fifth but, in the hope that he isn’t just another ‘morning glory’, I’m prepared to give him another chance in a very weak maiden. The consistent, but exposed, Safari Sunseeker should help make the market.
All-weather punters also got their fingers badly burnt a fortnight ago when IRONS ON FIRE (1.40) was mowed down close home by Rowan Ridge at Lingfield. Shrewd trainer George Baker sends him out again over the same course and distance, and Irons On Fire can take his revenge, with Kieren Fallon booked this time.
Never in the recent history of National Hunt racing have two trainers so dominated the major meetings than Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson. The pair exercise such a stranglehold that they are the first port of call for many ‘Saturday’ punters placing their Yankees and Lucky 15 bets. Both yards have kept their big players under wraps at today’s principal meeting, Newbury, but Henderson has a couple of likely winners in ALL THE ACES (1.30) and LIFESTYLE (3.40). The former was a smart middle-distance horse for Roger Varian and shaped like a surefire future winner when chasing home useful Prospect Wells here on his hurdling debut. Lifestyle reappears quickly under his 6lb penalty before the handicapper’s new mark kicks in following last Tuesday’s emphatic victory at Kempton over stablemate Higgy’s Ragazzo.
Philip Hobbs is another trainer near the very top of jump racing’s pecking order and he has campaigned FINGAL BAY (3.05) in exemplary fashion. His star novice has mopped up all four of his races and has been a good friend to favourite backers, having been sent off market leader on three occasions. Fingal Bay has Newbury’s Challow Hurdle as one of his last pit-stops before March’s grand prix at Cheltenham.
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