Following the superb racing we have enjoyed over the holiday period, Saturday’s fare has a distinctly pedestrian feel about it, but Sandown, which hosts the only Grade1 action of the weekend, lightens the gloom a little with a pretty competitive looking field for their top level TolworthNovices Hurdle. Don’t expect to see a future Champion Hurdler on display at the Esher track on Saturday as the 38 runnings since it’s inception in 1976 have yet to produce one, but plenty of top class animals, including the mighty Desert Orchid in 1984, have graced the winners enclosure. Indeed more recently, the 2018 winner, Summerville Boy, went on to win The Supreme Novices, and the 2016 winner, Yorkhill, collected the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson has won the race 5 times and Paul Nicholls 4, but the trainer with the best recent record, winning 2 of the last 3 renewals, has to be Colin Tizzard, and he fields another likely looking contender this time, the 6yo, Fiddlerontheroof.
Unplaced in 2 PTP’S, his sole success came in a Navan NHF race before joining the Dorset handler from Ireland in October. His first run for his new yard, in Chepstow’s Grade2 Persian War Novices Hurdle, (2m3 1/2f Gd/Sft Oct 11) was a highly promising one. Racing prominently throughout, he jumped ahead at the 2nd last, but was outstayed by the winner Thyme Hill, and was beaten by 2L. However, as the winner went on to win his next 2 races, including Newbury’s Grade1 Challow Hurdle, this was a pretty smart effort by the Tizzard horse on this his hurdling debut. Back at 2miles on Good ground for a Wincanton Novices 29 days later, he looked as if he would be suited by a stiffer test when going down by 3/4L to the subsequent Aintree winner, Edwardstone. He made no mistake next time, winning a 2 mile Novices on Heavy ground over Saturday’s course and distance very easily by 7L from the 128 rated Arrivederci, and if similar conditions prevail on Saturday, will be hard to beat.
The upwardly mobile trainer, Gavin Cromwell, will be hoping to become only the 2nd Irish based handler, (Willie Mullins won 4 years ago with Yorkhill) to land the spoils with his very promising mare, Jeremy’s Flame. The 6yo has won one of her 4 starts over timber, a Listowel Maiden on her hurdling debut last September, and has run well in her last 2 races, going down by 1 1/4L in a Mares Grade3 at Down Royal at the beginning of November, and again finishing a close 2nd, when beaten by the 138 rated Henderson Mare, Floressa, at Newbury 5 weeks ago. By the very successful dual purpose Stallion, Jeremy, there could be plenty more to come from the Irish mare, and her 7lbs Mares allowance, will also come in very handy on Saturday.
The market is headed by the Emma Lavelle trained, 6yo, Hang In There, and since coming to the Wiltshire yard from Margaret Mullins in Ireland last October, has won 2 of his 3 starts. Indeed if the market had it right, (he started a hot 1/2fav) he would have a 100% record for the yard, as following severe interference, he unseated at the first on his debut for the stable in October. Since that mishap it has been a case of upwards and onwards, with easy victories in an Exeter Maiden, and impressively last time, when taking a big step up in class, he landed Cheltenham’s Grade2 Supreme Trial Novices Hurdle by 3L from the 140 rated Pacify, (100 on the flat) 7 weeks ago. By the 4 times Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, out of a mare that has produced the winner of the 3m4f Cork Grand National, Hang In There, could find Saturday’s trip on the sharp side, but he did show plenty of toe in that Cheltenham Grade2 heat, quickening impressively turning in, to go 5L clear, and putting the result beyond doubt. (Looks a big price at the 25/1 currently available about him for the Supreme at Cheltenham in March)
5 times winning trainer, N. Henderson, will be hoping to make it 6 with his contender, Son Of Camas. The son of Miler, Creachadoir, has only run 3 times, and was sent off the 2/1 favourite for a valuable Punchestown Bumper on the first of them last April where he finished last of the 19 runners. However, he has won both his starts since, a Newbury NHF race in November, and 3 weeks later a Maiden Hurdle in workmanlike fashion at the same venue. Saturday represents a serious step up in class, but Son Of Camas must have been showing plenty at Seven Barrows before that valuable Punchestown heat, and it won’t be the biggest surprise if he rises to the occasion.
The Fergal O’Brien trained Silver Hallmark won an Irish PTP in fine style 13 months ago, and in his first race under rules (2m1/2f NHF Newbury March 2) finished 7L behind the Paul Nicholls trained, triple NHF flat race winner, Mc Fabulous, but in his next race, 249 days later, making his hurdling debut, he beat the Nicholls horse by 4L in a Chepstow Maiden. The runner up hasn’t exactly advertised the form, (last of 4 beaten 15L in an Ascot Grade2 next time) but Silver Hallmark remains an animal of some potential.
Selection. : Hang In There
Danger : Son Of Camas