Paul Ferguson has one selection for us on Saturday; Padge in the Taunton 13:05. Compare odds and bet.
The pick of Saturday’s action comes from Ascot where Sprinter Sacre is set to make his eagerly-awaited return to action in the Grade 1 Sodexo Clarence House Chase.
The former Champion Chase winner is returning from 386 days on the sidelines and, though the ground will be softer than ideal, it will be disappointing if he can’t make a winning return, should he be anywhere near his best.
The Network gelding has won on soft and heavy before and, though Nicky Henderson states that the run is needed, I’m sure he is as fit as they would want him at home. Basically, if he is back he wins, but not even his own connections will know for sure until he has taken his chance this afternoon. Therefore, it may be wiser to back him at 7-4 NRNB for the Queen Mother Champion Chase rather than Evs to win today – should he win impressively, he will be an odds-on shot in seven weeks time, and, if he is beaten, there is a strong possibility that he won’t line up at Cheltenham.
Henderson has a couple of other short-price favourites on the card, with Top Notch and Out Sam looking to book-end the action from the Berkshire venue, in the juvenile and novice hurdles, respectively.
The latter, at around 8-13 overnight, would be the pick of the pair and should be considered for those who don’t mind taking odds-on. The form of his Newbury success could hardly have worked out better and it will be disappointing if he can’t follow up.
Henderson sends The Queen’s Close Touch up to Haydock and is another odds-on shot for the Seven Barrows yard. He impressed with his jumping on his return to action at Wincanton, but looks short enough to topple the enigmatic Colour Squadron, who is rated 151 and receives 4lbs here. Philip Hobbs’ runner shaped better last time and has the ability to win a race of this nature.
With his presence enough to put me off at the prices, a watching brief is called for on all of these Seven Barrows inmates, though it could easily be a red-letter day for the yard, if all goes to plan.
As for the day’s bet, we’re heading down to Taunton where Padge (1:05) ought to land the opening novices’ hurdle, which is an EBF qualifier.
Evan Williams has his string in fine form and this expensive purchase actually beat Cheltenham Festival winner Very Wood in his point-to-point. The form of his debut second at Ffos Las reads really well, splitting Shantou Bob and Fletcher’s Flyer, with a yawning gap back to the fourth.
The drop in trip in a slowly run event on dryer ground at Cheltenham didn’t suit last time and, with conditions more suitable this afternoon, the Flemensfirth gelding really should be getting off the mark. He could well line up a tilt at the final in March, as his current rating of 125 looks more than fair at present.
1:05 Taunton: Padge; 10/11 @ Stan James
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- Iinc Cheltenham winners Faugheen, Very Wood (33/1) & O’Faolains Boy