Having been with him on both hurdles starts to date I’m certainly not ready to jump ship from the promising Colour Squadron (2:35) who can land Saturday’s feature, the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
Philip Hobbs’s impressive Chepstow bumper winner finished runner-up in a decent maiden hurdle at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting before going one better in a similar contest over the same course-and-distance in mid December.
He was a length too good for the highly-regarded Montbazon last time, with a yawning 19 length gap back to smart bumper performer Ericht in third.
Both successes to date have come on soft ground, so any deteriorating in conditions will be in his favour and the stiff finish at the Esher track should also play to his strengths.
Despite facing just four rivals, the son of Old Vic needs to step forward once again here, as the official handicapper says he has 4lbs to find with market leader Prospect Wells, who was impressive in beating last week’s easy winner All The Aces at Newbury on Hennessy day.
Richard Johnson might well try to force the issue aboard the selection to draw the sting out of Prospect Wells and more of a threat could come from Captain Conan, who is the fly in the ointment.
A winner by 15 lengths on his final start in France, it is interesting that Nicky Henderson opts to throw him in the deep end on his British debut. Given the ammunition the in-form trainer has at his disposal, it is a compliment to the five-year-old that he is given the nod.
I watched his Auteuil success on Friday and he was upsides when left clear at the last due to a faller, but he stayed on really well and drew away from his field in very soft ground. It’s not hard to imagine him powering up Sandown’s hill and he did appear to jump to the right on occasions, so the track ought to be ideal.
2:35 Sandown Colour Squadron
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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)