Nicky Henderson has the front two in the betting for the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on Saturday with Buzz – 3/1 with BetVictor – heading the market from stablemate Son Of Camas who is 4/1. Dan Skelton’s stable have not been pulling up any trees of late and I will be monitoring the yard’s form this week in the run up to the race given I am a big fan of West Cork who might be overpriced at 6/1.
The ground is soft at Doncaster for Wednesday’s six-race card and Danny Kirwan (2.18) makes his belated seasonal reappearance for Paul Nicholls in the opening novices’ hurdle. The 7-y-old would have been a confident selection on good ground but he receives 10lbs from dual winner Severano and that might be enough to tip the scales in favour of the Ditcheat representative.
Almost inevitably, Henderson has a strong hand in the novice hurdle division this season and Allart (3.23) can follow up his recent Ludlow success in the 2m Novice Hurdle. The gelding holds entries in the Supreme and Ballymore Novice Hurdles at the Festival and will need to follow up his Shropshire success if he is to book his Festival ticket.
In the valuable Veterans’ Chase the each way vote goes to Missed Approach (3.55) who returns from a 438-day lay-off for Warren Greatrex. The 10-year-old has gone well fresh in the past but remains 3lbs higher than when winning the Kim Muir at Cheltenham two year’s ago. The selection is 33/1 at BetVictor for the Grand National in April and it is possible that he will need his comeback en route to Cheltenham or Aintree, but he is a horse I have always had a lot of time for and this is, arguably, a drop down in grade for the horse.
Ludlow describe their ground as soft (heavy in places) and that may suit One Style (3.31) more than several his rivals – especially Fort Gabriel – in the Prince Of Wales Challenge Trophy for amateur riders. The selection has won his two starts so far this season for Venetia Williams although he is 19lbs higher than when scoring at Uttoxeter last time. The selection has had a near two-month lay-off after a couple of quick runs although he has missed a couple of recent engagements on account of abandonments.
Oxwich Bay has the ability to win over fences from his current mark, but he is still prone to take a couple of fences with him and I’m going to take a chance on Demopolis (4.40) making his chase debut for Philip Hobbs. The six-year-old was a juvenile hurdle winner in his native France but has struggled since moving to Britain although he has been dropping in the weights. If he takes to the larger obstacles, he must have a leading chance.
No surprise to see Laurina (1.40) revert to hurdles having disappointed in her last two chase starts and Willie Mullins will be disappointed if the mare can’t win the Quevega Hurdle – named after his brilliant six-time Mares Hurdle winner – at Punchestown.
At Newcastle Arju shaped like a sure-fire future winner when second at Kempton last time and the third horse home ran a good race when second at Lingfield earlier in the week. The vote, however, goes to Richard Hannon’s Ventura Bounty (2.35) who returns from a 190-day lay-off having disappointed at Ffos Las when a beaten favourite. His earlier second at Nottingham on debut suggested he was well above average and this stiff mile should suit.