Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with seven to follow on Saturday at Sandown, Newcastle and Wincanton. View selections below
Sandown’s feature race the Grade 1 32 Red sponsored Tolworth Hurdle has only attracted four runners and L’Ami Serge (2.25) can land the odds for Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty and put behind a frustrating start to the New Year at Cheltenham and Exeter for the yard.
The selection is unbeaten in two starts since joining Seven Barrows and he landed a three-runner race last time at Ascot so a small field holds no terrors. Harry Fry, at the time of writing, has won with all three runners he has saddled in 2015 and his Jolly’s Cracked It is the obvious danger although he will be there to be shot at and Geraghty is taken to produce his mount fast and late.
I’m not convinced it was Tom Scudamore’s finest hour when he tried to make all on Balgarry at Ascot returning from a long lay-off at Ascot last time and it will be interesting to see if the Pipe supporters are out in force. The tissue price of 11/1 at BetVictor looks generous given he went off 8/1 from a 2lb higher mark in a much better race last time.
Preference, however, is for Bouvreuil (3.00) for Champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the excellent Sean Bowen who lost his 7lb claim at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day but is still excellent value for his 5lbs allowance. The selection scored in his native France when last seen back in November and the 4-y-old receives a 12lb weight-for-age allowance.
Unioniste is a fascinating runner for Nicholls in the finale but has never run right-handed before and is overlooked in favour of Relax (3.35) for Venetia Williams who saddled the winner of the corresponding race 12 months ago with Katenko. The selection ran a promising race on his belated reappearance last month and is only 5lbs higher than when scoring over C&D back in February.
At Newcastle I am looking forward to the chase debut of No Deal returning from a 730-day lay-off for Lucinda Russell but he will surely need further than the minimum trip and Yorkist (12.30) was very impressive at Carlisle last time and can follow up that success with 5lb conditional Nathan Moscrop largely negating his 6lb penalty.
The Donald McCain yard is still not firing on all cylinders but I think Hester Flemen (12.00) might be a different class to today’s five rivals in the opening mares’ novice hurdle. The selection has won a point-to-point and bumper in three career starts and cost connections £55,000 back in March.
Rear Admiral is worth a second glance in the market for Mick Easterby in the staying hurdle but Bollin Julie (1.05) ran an excellent race when runner up at Carlisle last time from a 3lb lower mark and is taken to go one better for trainer Donald Whillans who also saddles Bollin Fiona. The yard had three runners over the Xmas period and all finished runner up so they deserve a change of luck.
At Wincanton Alan King runs two in the feature handicap hurdle and bottom-weight Pride In Battle (2.40) ran well from this mark coming back off a 1000-day absence at Doncaster last month and is entitled to come on for his reappearance.