At the time of writing the Colin Tizzard yard have just had a facile winner at Taunton. There have been a couple of false dawns with regard to the wellbeing of the stable in recent weeks, but I am convinced they have a number of well handicapped horses to go to war with this spring.
The word good is creeping back into going descriptions and conditions were given as good to soft – soft in places – on Tuesday morning at Doncaster with the forecast for a drying wind and no further rain.
There is a fascinating novices’ handicap chase over 3m, and Minella Encore would have been the selection had it not been for the form of the Dr Richard Newland stable who have hit the buffers in recent weeks. The top-weight has had a wind operation since just losing out in a protracted dual at Kelso at the beginning of December and the drying ground is a positive.
The Late Legend is 43lbs higher in the weights than when scoring at Sedgefield back in October and his record under Sean Bowen reads 211411. He was all out to win over C&D from an 8lbs lower mark last time, however, when he consistently jumped out to his right intimidating his rivals with his antics.
I hope to see Igor (2.20) race inside Tom Weston’s market leader and the Nicky Henderson 8-y-old gets the vote despite having failed to complete in two starts over fences so far this season. The ew selection – 6s with BetVictor – fell two out behind the ill-fated Severano at Sandown on his chase debut before unseating Sam Waley-Cohen back at the Esher track in December.
Today’s better ground will suit and, while he must prove he stays this far, he is the half-brother to a winner at 3m for the stable. Glenduff is another who will appreciate the better ground, but he is another who is not guaranteed to get home over the trip.
Ashfield Paddy (4.05) disappointed in two starts over fences earlier in the season but appreciated the return to hurdles when third to the progressive Brinkley at Wincanton last month. Kevin Brogan takes off a valuable 5lbs and, despite winning on heavy ground last season, his point win was gained on good ground and he gets the each way vote in the competitive 3m handicap hurdle. The ew recommendation is 6s with 10bet.
Sultans Pride has had a wind operation since finishing fourth when last seen in the autumn but will appreciate the ground and has a good record fresh.
At Ludlow I am looking forward to the chase/handicap debut of Brooksway Fair (1.55) a winning pointer who has been well beaten on soft ground in three hurdles for Evan Williams including over 2m 3f+ last time. He has an opening mark of 88 and the horse who finished second to him in his sole point is now rated 127. He faces largely exposed rivals, cost connections £80,000 and it will be disappointing if he cannot go close from what looks a potentially attractive mark. He was put in short enough and is likely to drift from the opening 9/4 with Boylesports.
Volcano has been in tremendous form of late but is, arguably, a stone higher in the weights than when scoring at Ludlow last time given he has been raised 11lbs and jockey Ben Jones cannot claim his 3lbs in this conditional jockey’s event. He must go close but Ballycross (3.40) has been in many a notebook since tenderly handled at Exeter on his reappearance and finished a good third at Wincanton last time. His young inexperienced jockey has yet to ride a winner from 15 rides under rules and this, as far as I can see, is his first ride over fences. Good luck to him – even the greats must start somewhere. The selection is 13/8 with William Hill.
The form of Onchan’s (4.15) second on his latest start over shorter here last time was given a boost when the winner followed up at Carlisle on Monday. He is obviously no star but made the Trevor Hemmings cull last year and will make a chaser in time.