Paul Ferguson has three selections for us on Saturday; Fingal Bay (3:00 Chepstow); Countrywide Flame (3:35 Newmarket); and Hinterland (3:40 Chepstow)
Sadly our ante-post selection Biographer skipped this afternoon’s Betfred Cesarewitch in favour of winning at Ascot last Friday, so it’s left to recent Chester winner Countrywide Flame (3:35) who was given a favourable mention in my original preview for this contest and has since won impressively.
John Quinn’s Triumph Hurdle winner relishes easy ground and should cope with the step up in trip, plus he’s been handed a kind low draw and has the assistance of Jimmy Quinn in the saddle.
The form of the four-year-olds most recent success was franked when Ardlui ran well at Ascot last week and, under a 4lb penalty, he looks sure to run a big race with so many ticks in the right boxes. With Boylesports offering double-figure odds on Friday evening, he looks worth supporting each-way in a strong renewal.
You could make a case for plenty of the opposition, including three-year-old Montaser who sneaks in at the foot of the weights, York winner Olympiad who has plenty more to offer, Martial Law who was staying on well behind the selection at Chester last time, and Lyric Street who has I followed blindly this season; despite failing to show his true form the last twice, he is worthy of consideration for a place at a massive 50/1.
This afternoon’s Chepstow meeting always signals the beginning of the jumps season proper and the 5-runner novices’ chase looks an absolute cracker with Fingal Bay (3:00) taking on Paul Nicholls’ Poungach.
The latter developed in to a high-class hurdler last term and is a very exciting prospect for fences this season, but the former looked a potential star when rattling up a sequence in the first half of last season and he should probably still be unbeaten.
The six-year-old probably hit the front too soon at Aintree and a combination of this with him racing keenly probably conspired to him being outstayed by Lovcen. The drop back in trip is not an issue and, though he normally has his horses straight, it should be remembered that Nicholls’ Silviniaco Conti looked in need of the run when beaten in this race by Cue Card last year.
Fingal Bay could be one of the leading lights in the novice chase ranks this term and he is worth backing to make a winning start. He was trading at 4/6 with Paddy Power last night.
The Irish firm were also offering 6/4 about Hinterland (3:40) defying top-weight in the four-year-old limited handicap hurdle, a race that Paul Nicholls has won three times in the past five years and four times in the past decade.
Interestingly, three of his winners, including Escort’men and Domtaline who have won the last two renewals, have shouldered top-weight and Hinterland can follow suit.
Beaten off this mark in January at Cheltenham, he looked really good when making a winning British debut last November and remains a horse of some potential. Due to go chasing this term, it was announced a couple of weeks back that he would run in this contest before switching to the larger obstacles and he can make a winning reappearance under Ruby Walsh.
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Last Year’s Book Results – Leading Prospects:
- SPRINTER SACRE – Unbeaten – winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- SIMONSIG – Winner at Aintree & Cheltenham
- CINDERS AND ASHES – 10/1 winner of Supreme Novices Hurdle
- BOBS WORTH – 9/2 winner of the RSA Chase
- MENORAH & SILVINIACO CONTI – Both Aintree Winners
- SIR DES CHAMPS – Unbeaten inc 3/1 Jewson Cheltenham Winner
- FINGAL BAY – Won 4 times inc Challow Hurdle
- RAYA STAR – 10/3 winner at Wetherby, 12/1 Ladbroke Hurdle winner, 15/2 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner
- AMBION WOOD – 14/1 EBF Final Sandown winner
- CHAMPION COURT – 6/1 G2 Dipper Novices Chase winner
- PALACE JESTER – 14/1 winner at FFos Las
- SWINCOMBE FLAME – Hat-trick winner inc Lanzarote Hurdle at 9/2
- TEAFOR THREE – 5/1 NH Cheltenham Chase winner (Manifesto Novices’ Chase)