Having been successful in three of the last ten renewals, Paul Nicholl’s two candidates bear close inspection. Last time out his 6yo Silsol ran as well as could be expected, when finishing 5th, (btn 18l) behind Rock on Ruby and co, at Cheltenham on New Years Day. Prior to that he had looked very progressive, winning three races in a row, culminating with a victory at Newbury off a mark of 144.
This was fully 20lbs higher than his previous handicap win off 124 at Ayr in April. Now raised to a mark of 151, one feels He can still be competitive, as stamina shouldn’t be an issue, (has won over 2m6f Newton Abbot) and is one for the shortlist. Nicholl’s other runner, the ex French 5yo Rothman is interesting. On only his 2nd racecourse appearance, in testing ground, he collected a £12,000 first prize at Pau in the French provinces, last January. He disappointed, when odds on for his British debut at Newton Abbot in April, and further disaster followed when falling at the first on his seasonal reappearance in November. He showed considerably more promise last time at Taunton finishing 4th 5 3/4l behind Pull The Chord. Although a 5yo has failed to win this over the last decade four have been placed, so coming from this yard, and with his featherweight of 10st1lb it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.
David Pipe’s Batavir (also engaged Welsh Champion Hurdle Saturday) heads the market at around 5/1, and certainly looks the pick of his two runners, as the second string Taj Badalandabad seems better suited by shorter than Saturday’s test. Batavir, a French bred 6yo has been highly progressive since making his British debut at the end of November. He has collected a cl3 hurdle at Ascot (Dec19th 2m6f sft) of a mark of 119, and followed up seven days later with a win in a cl2 at Wincanton off 125 (2m6f gd/sft). Raised another 7lbs for Saturday, he still looks well treated, and has a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs. He is also entered in the Welsh Champion Hurdle (2 1/2mls) on Saturday, but the right handed track and distance of the Sandown race should be much more in his favour, so presumably he will be heading in the Esher direction at the weekend. Definitley one for the short list!
Neil Kings highly consistent 7yo Saffron Wells, ran one of the best races of his career, over the Sandown course last March ( 2m4f cl1 ) where he finished a staying on second on soft ground off a mark of 126. Back to the scene of that sterling performance it isn’t difficult to envisage him running another good race, but it has to be said, that despite failing to hit the back of the net since, the handicapper has been relentless, and he is now racing off a mark of 135.
Harry fry’s Polamco is another with a progressive profile. A winner of his last two races he is only 4lbs higher than last time, where he had Saffron Wells 2 3/4l back in third. ( Dec2 Newbury 2ml 5f ). He did race very freely, so ridden with more restraint on Saturday, although 3lbs worse of with Saffron Wells, he must have excellent prospects of confirming the form.
Despite mistakes three out and at the last, Emma Lavelle’s 6yo Junction Fourteen got to within 7l of Batavir at Wincanton, and is now 7lbs better off. He also holds another of Saturday’s contenders, Little Boy Boru on Newbury running in November, so it would be no surprise to see this son of Kings Theatre getting involved.
Fourth of four doesn’t seem like much of a recommendation, but the race that Foryourinformation finished last in at Newbury in November worked out extremely well, with the three animals ahead of him all winning next time out. The third horse that day, Tea For Two ( who was receiving 2lbs ) and 2l ahead of him, absoloutely hosed up in a cl1 handicap at Kempton by 16l and 1l from Little Boy Boru and Saffron Wells. A strict interpretation of the form would give Rebecca Curtis’s lightly raced 6yo every chance on Saturday, but he is more likely to take up his engagement in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
Of the Longsdon two runners I prefer the stoutly bred Harristown, ( by Bering out of a Sadlers Wells mare ). So far he has been campaigned at shorter distances, and is bound to be suited by Saturday’s step up in trip. He wasn’t stopping last time out over 2m3 1/2f on testing ground at Lingfield where he was just held by Lightentertainment, who has gone in again since. He seems to handle heavy ground particularly well, so any deterioration in conditions would be in his favour.
EW : Harristown.