IT must be tempting fate to call a racehorse CHAMP but whoever picked the name for the JP McManus-owned six-year-old deserves credit for their crystal-ball gazing ability!
And any doubters should tune in to Newbury’s Challow Hurdle at 3.00 today.
This Grade 1 event is very strong on paper with impressive Huntingdon winner Brewin’Upastorm, Coolanly – a Grade 2 winner at Cheltenham last time – and the progressive duo, Kateson and Alsa Mix, all probably up to winning an average renewal.
But CHAMP could be too good for all of them – and turn out to be well-named! He has the added benefit of being proven in a hot handicap out of novice company.
That came over this course and distance on Ladbrokes Trophy day when he powered clear up the home straight to win by nearly five lengths in a decent time.
The fourth and sixth have won good races since to give the form a solid look.
Kateson, also a winner here at the last meeting, could be best of the rest as Alsa Mix, unfancied when winning at Sandown on very heavy ground, may be outspeeded.
One thing seems certain – this year’s Challow will prove a race to follow.
With a name like SANDY BEACH, Colin Tizzard’s eight-year-old ought to be in action at Southwell, not Newbury.
Nonetheless he has a great shout in the Mandarin Handicap Chase at 2.25.
Not all horses improve for the much-debated ‘wind surgery’ but it certainly looked to have done the trick for Sandy Beach at Uttoxeter last time as he galloped on strongly to win a fair race over this same 3m2f trip by eight lengths.
The handicapper has hit him with an 8lb hike but before his breathing problems he was running well off even higher marks.
Track and ground should be perfect and, as Thistlecrack showed in the King George and Elegant Escape in the Welsh National, it is an understatement to say the Tizzard team are in good form!
Reikers Island smashed his rivals at Exeter last time but is up in class and will not find it easy with 12st on his back.
There has been some great racing in Britain this week, with a few Cheltenham prospects boosted, but Ireland have staged a Festive feast and pointers for Prestbury Park in March were plentiful.
For those who have been concentrating on Claus rather than clues your Spy has been keeping an eye on events and HARDLINE is one for any punters shortlist for novice chases from 2m to 2m4f.
He beat highly-touted Getabird in a Grade 1 chase at Limerick and, although he may have only been second had that one not made a hash of the last, he is a rock-solid battle-hardened competitor – just the type for a battle round Cheltenham.
At Down Royal STAND UP AND FIGHT looked a hunter chaser to follow when making a winning debut in that discipline after landing a point-to-point earlier.
He outclassed a good field in what is always an informative hunter and the six-year-old, owned by JP McManus and trained by Enda Bolger, has more to offer.
He was useful over hurdles but chasing is his game and winning rider Derek O’Connor said he could be ‘a bit special’. Indeed.
Leopardstown staged a maiden hurdle for three-year-olds that often produces a top-class performer – Mr Adjudicator, who went on to be second in the Triumph, won it 12 months ago – and this season it went to SIR EREC by a neck from the equally promising TIGER TAP TAP, with eight lengths and more back to the rest of the 22 finishers.
The winner was high-class on the Flat, finishing third to Stradivarius at Ascot on his last run for Aidan O’Brien. Now with Joseph his jumping could be improved but he clearly has an engine.
If he gets quicker at the obstacles he could be a force at the winter game. As a stayer on the Flat he might be outspeeded if the ground is quick at Cheltenham but that would be no worry for ex-French Tiger Tap Tap, who travelled well here on his first run for Willie Mullins and will surely be a player at the spring Festivals.
At Doncaster LADY BUTTONS will be hard to beat against her own sex in the 2.05, connections having taken her out of the tougher Castleford Chase at Wetherby on Thursday.
She won a hot handicap at Newbury on Ladbrokes Trophy day in unbelievable style, laughing at a decent field and is clearly improving at a rate of knots.
That was over an extended two miles but she showed no signs of stopping and should have no problem with the extra distance here.
Drinks Interval is a threat on ratings but her recent improvement has been at three miles and she may be outpaced at this trip on decent ground.
Atlanta Ablaze is a bigger worry while Rene’s Girl, who has disappointed on both her runs this season, has to be respected having won a similar event over course and distance in January.
If it was frustrating for those of us who backed him when Waiting Patiently was brought down in the King George then spare a thought for trainer Ruth Jefferson who had been anticipating the race for months.
She had a winner at Wetherby on Thursday to ease the pain a little and TAYZAR can apply some more balm to the wounds by taking the 1.25 at Kelso.
The lightly-raced chaser won over course and distance last month and the form of his latest defeat at Sedgefield is strong with the winner having gone in again since.
Latest in Horse Racing
He is fairly treated on the bare form and there is probably more improvement to come, something that may not be true of most of the opposition.
Southwell gets a rare opportunity in the Saturday sand spotlight and SAMOVAR can shine in the 1.45 over the minimum trip.
Horses either love or loathe the Fibresand and Samovar is definitely in the former camp.
His course-and-distance record reads 221143 and he was back to his best for that third, in a blanket finish here last week. That was a Class 3 so he is down in grade and runs off the same mark.
With often under-rated Richard Kingscote taking over in the saddle Samovar will be hard to keep out of the frame.