Paul Ferguson has two selections on Friday; Simonsig in the 13.55 (Sandown) and Close House in the 2.05 (Exeter) Compare odds.
Sandown stages the best novice hurdle run so far this season this afternoon when the unbeaten Fingal Bay, currently favourite for both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham, takes on the hugely exciting Simonsig (1:55) in a red-hot renewal of Winter Novices’ Hurdle.
Philip Hobbs’s charge is greatly respected as he has looked a top-class prospect in winning the Persian War and at Cheltenham’s Open meeting, but the selection is potentially as good and falls in to the old cliché “could be anything” bracket.
A dual winner between the flags in Ireland, he won the valuable point-to-point bumper at Fairyhouse in April, the grey has since joined Nicky Henderson’s powerful stable and he was in a different league to the opposition when beating eight rivals on his hurdles debut at Ascot recently.
This is the acid test, but he can step up to the mark and end the winning run of Fingal Bay, who was trading as 6/4 favourite on Thursday evening. Simonsig touched 9/4 (Bet365), though it is hoped he eases in the betting on Friday morning as his main market rival has much stronger form in the book.
Down at Exeter Close House (2:05) can get off the mark over hurdles at the first time of asking for the in-form David Pipe.
A bumper winner for Karen McLintock, Roger Brookhouse shelled out £100,000 to acquire his services and the four-year-old made his debut in his silks in the valuable DBS Sales Bumper when he ran a fine race to chase home Montbazon.
The winner went on to finish runner-up at Aintree, while fourth home Magnifique Etoile has won both starts this season, fifth home Kings Lodge won at Market Rasen recently and the sixth Theatrical Star won at Chepstow in October.
Sure to have been well schooled ahead of this hurdles debut, he has most to fear from Ambion Wood, who also has sound bumper form, but Victor Dartnall’s five-year-old was bitterly disappointing on his hurdles debut recently and needs to bounce back.
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- AL FEROF won Supreme Novices’ Hurdle 10-1
- BENSALEM won Stewart Family Handicap 5-1
- BOBS WORTH won A Bartlett 15-8, 4/4 for year
- CAPTAIN CHRIS won Arkle Trophy 6-1
- FIRST LIEUTENANT won Neptune Investment 7-1
- (plus Grade 1 in Ireland 16-1)
- JAMES DE VASSY won Lanzarote Hurdle 8-1
- LONG RUN won King George 9-2, Gold Cup 7-2
- OSCAR WHISKY won Aintree Hurdle 6-1
- Peddlers Cross (Fighting Fifth Hurdle)
- Medermit (Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase)
- FINIAN’S RAINBOW (Maghull Novices’ Chase)
- WISHFULL THINKING (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)