What a weekend of jumps racing in prospect – Sandown has the Champion Hurdler on show, Leopardstown stages a two-day feast in the Dublin Racing Festival and Musselburgh also has its Trials Weekend.
There is simply a plethora of top-class action to savour over the coming 48 hours.
Disappointingly, Buveur D’air faces little or no challenge in the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday afternoon, with Nicky Henderson’s two-mile king likely to win without coming off the bridle.
His nearest rival in the Champion Hurdle betting however faces a date with destiny at Leopardstown in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Faugheen was brilliant in his return win in the Morgiana Hurdle in November, then bitterly disappointing next time out in the Ryanair Hurdle over Christmas. Was that the beginning of the end for the ‘The Machine’?
Saturday’s big race is due off 15:30 and will tell all. Trainer Willie Mullins feels he has been as good ever at home of late and, if that is the case, the real Faugheen will make odds of 1/1 look very generous in the Irish Champion Hurdle.
Leopardstown boasts some magnificent clashes across their two days, with Min tackling Yorkhill and Footpad against Petit Mouchoir amongst the Saturday treats.
On Sunday the most talked-about novice in training, Samcro, is likely to land a first Grade One victory while at Musselburgh we might see the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner in waiting when Nicky Henderson saddles the exciting Claimantakinforgan at the Scottish venue.
Back to Sandown on Saturday now in the pursuit of some value winners.
Kerry Lee’s Top Gamble was good enough to compete in Grade One contests through 2017 and produced an excellent run to finish fourth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.
He ran well again at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day on heavy ground over a 2m5f trip that would have stretched his stamina in the conditions and is fancied to get a win at Sandown in the two-mile handicap chase at 13:15, where he is available at 11/4 to win.
The excellent Sean Bowen is in the plate and, with 2lb relief from their New Year’s Day run and now over the ideal trip, a bold bid looks assured.
Just six go to post and Top Gamble’s stablemate Gino Trail could prove a big danger. He likes to front run however and with Big Jim also amongst the sextet, he may not get his own way, which could set things up for Top Gamble.
Later on the Sandown card, Paul Nicholls’ Samtegal is capable of a big run at odds of 8/1 in the Betfred Mobile Masters Handicap Chase (15:35).
He was a promising chaser in the 2015/16 season and has shown enough positives in three runs back from a layoff to warrant supporting.
He has chased home useful rivals and promises to be suited now upped to three-miles for the first time. With Sam Twiston-Davies on board, Samtegal looks a solid player in this field at an each-way price.
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