Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with eight to follow on Saturday at Sandown, Ffos Las and Wetherby. View selections below
Sandown Park have missed the worst of the recent cold snap and stage a cracking card including the Contenders Hurdle over the minimum trip which sees leading juvenile Bristol De Mai (1.15) take on his elders in a fascinating four-runner contest.
The selection is owned by Simon Munir who also has Triumph Hurdle favourite Peace And Co and it is possible that if Bristol De Mai is to go to Cheltenham in six weeks’ time it will be for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle rather than the Triumph.
Trained by Nigel-Twiston Davies Bristol De Mai easily landed the Grade 1 Finale Hurdle at Chepstow over Xmas beating Karezak comfortably by six lengths and the latter franked the form when going down by 3l to Peace And Co at Cheltenham last weekend. Bristol De Mai is currently 8/1 for the Triumph Hurdle with BetVictor and it will be interesting to see which route connections decide upon should he win this afternoon.
The juvenile won’t have it all his own way though with Harry Fry’s Jollyallan, unbeaten in three starts over timber, in opposition. Jollyallan is, arguably, the better long term prospect and will be some chaser in time but he might have to give second best to the 4-year-old who receives 9lbs.
The Grade 1 Scilly Isles Chase sees five go to post and Willie Mullins has had a modest time with the chasers he has sent across the Irish Sea so far this term but I think the mare Gitane Du Berlais (2.25) can spring a surprise in receipt of 11lbs from the geldings.
I was very taken with her win at Limerick over Xmas and although this is a huge step up in Grade she oozed class on that occasion and has the build of a chaser. The home challenge is strong with Irish Saint considered the best of British for Paul Nicholls who, almost invariably, has a great chance of saddling another big race Saturday winner.
In the big betting race of the day Imperial Leader (3.00) can defy a near 300-day absence also for Nigel Twiston-Davies. The selection, who can go well fresh, is 8/1 at BetVictor and has bits of form which suggest he should be very competitive off his current handicap mark. He was beaten 5l by Melodic Rendezvous when giving the winner 6lbs as a novice and first time out might be the time to catch him.
It is only three weeks since Theatrical Star (3.35) finished runner up in Warwick’s Grand National Trial but if over those exertions he must go close from a 2lbs higher mark. Connections are trying to get the horse rated high enough to get into the Grand National and he would not be without a chance given he handles all ground.
At Ffos Las Village Vic is interesting if he settles better than he did at Ascot last time but I am convinced he will be better on good ground and Timesawastin (1.30) is only 1lb higher than when runner up at Newbury at the Hennessy meeting and trainer Evan Williams had a couple of winners at Taunton earlier in the week.
The West Wales National will be a real slog in the heavy ground and Ziga Boy looked sure to take a hand at Newbury last time but marginal preference is for Global Power (2.40) who missed the Warwick National Trial three weeks ago but might be fresher than most and represents Oliver Sherwood whose stable star Many Clouds was backed into 9/1 from 10s on Friday at BetVictor for the Gold Cup.
At the time of writing Wetherby must pass an inspection but if the track thaws in time Midnight Belle (2.10) and Kaki De La Pree (3.20) must go close especially the latter who caught Gevrey Chambertin on a going day at Newbury last month.