Paul Ferguson has one antepost selection for us on Friday; Irving at the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury next month. Compare odds and bet.
With Friday’s action a bit thin on the ground and the timely announcement that he will skip tomorrow’s Grade 1 Tolworth in favour of a crack at the Betfair Hurdle next month, now is the time to step in and back Irving at 12/1 for the valuable Newbury handicap.
Paul Nicholls took the race in 2012 with Zarkandar and the former champion trainer holds the key to the weights at this stage, with Ptit Zig currently the top-rated horse in the race, on a mark of 159 (the Irish challengers are yet to be assessed).
Should Nicholls run Ptit Zig, too, the selection would be in receipt of 16lbs from his stable-mate and, therefore, carry an attractive looking maximum weight of 10-10.
Three from three to date, Irving has looked full of pace and deserves his place at the head of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle market, but, if he is to land a blow in the Festival curtain-raiser, the unbeaten six-year-old would need to be going very close in this off 143 (a mark some 6lb lower from which My Tent Or Yours was successful 12 months ago).
The strong-travelling son of Singspiel promises to be suited by a race of this nature and, having shown plenty of speed in scoring at Taunton and Ascot (twice), he ought to relish being covered up in a big field and he has already proven his ability to win on soft ground, so testing conditions shouldn’t be a concern.
Looking for possible dangers, Garde La Victoire was the other novice I had hoped would be entered for this, but he looks set to contest the Tolworth tomorrow (be sure to check to declarations later this morning) and, if that is the case, he could well blow his decent looking mark (138) by going close or even winning the Kempton contest.
At this stage, the other one who looks of interest is Willie Mullins’ lightly-raced Smashing but he has yet to be allocated an official rating and it is hard to imagine the handicapper will take any chances.
If things go to plan and Irving arrives at Newbury fit and well in four weeks time, I can see him being sent off less than half his current odds, so now is the time to act. He was shortened by several firms last night, but was still available at 12/1 with Bet365, Boylesports and Bet Fred – take the price today!
Friday’s Ante-Post Selection:
BETFAIR HURDLE (8 Feb):Irving 12/1
Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow 2013-14
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Grade 1 winning jockeys Nick Scholfield and Jane Mangan provide readers with their horses to follow
Last years results included:
* Leading Prospects, Arvika Ligeonniere (x3), Boston Bob, Captain Conan (x3), Champagne Fever (x2 inc Supreme Novices’ Hurdle), Glens Melody, Melodic Rendezvous, Simonsig (Arkle) & Un Atout won 13 Grade 1 novice contests between them
* My Tent Or Yours won 4 times including the Betfair Hurdle and the Top Novices’ at Aintree
* Stable Round-Up included Neptune winner The New One, Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Court Minstrel and David Pipe’s Dynaste of whom it read “could follow the Grands Crus path of last year, starting in the Steel Plate And Sections before he is readied for the Feltham” – he won both races and also scored at Aintree in April
* Across The Sea – Mount Benbulben 14/1 winner of the Grade 1 novice chase at the Punchestown Festival
* Under The Hammer – horses featured in this section included Champion Bumper winner Briar Hill (25/1) and The Liquidator, who won the equivalent Grade 1 at Punchestown – this section has been greatly increased for 2013-14