BARRY GERAGHTY AND Nicky Henderson certainly had a day that they’ll never forget on yesterday, and there’s a good chance they’ll start today in the same vein of form with Solix in the Jewson Novices’ Chase.
Peddler’s Cross was by far the best of the runners over hurdles, and if he turned up here in the same form as last year when he ran Hurricane Fly close then he’d be by far the likeliest winner.
His preparation has been far from ideal though, with his trainer up until very recently expressing some dissatisfaction about his home work.
The feeling remains that if Peddler’s was 100% then his trainer would have let him take his chance in the Arkle. It’s noteworthy that the bookies are happy to lay him at 7/2 for this weaker race considering he was trading at 3/1 for former.
Willie Mullin’s Sir Des Champs is vying for favouritism, but looks underpriced on what he has achieved. His win in the Martin Pipe at the festival was visually impressive given how much he was set to do by his jockey, and he remains unbeaten over fences. The quality of the horses he has faced is an unknown though, and his trainer’s string has been very hit and miss all week. Consequently Solix could be the one.
The French-bred ran well under a huge burden in last year’s Coral Cup, and has since run to a very decent standard over the larger obstacles. His sole defeat in this sphere came when giving the re-opposing Champion Court three pounds in a Grade Two over course and distance On New Year’s Day.
Off level weights he can certainly reverse that placing, and given the form of his trainer and the fact that this has been his long-term target he can certainly go close at 8/1. The track and ground will hold no fears, and he is open to a great deal of improvement at six-years-old and with only three chase starts under his belt.
The Ryanair is by far the most competitive Grade One of the week, with at least eight of the runners coming here with a genuine chance of winning.
The one that still has a little bit of juice left in the price is Captain Chris. Although form figures of U3P are uninspiring, they don’t tell the full story.
His first run of the season would likely have seen him give a beating and six pounds to Medermit without a bad blunder at the last, and his third place in the King George wasn’t too bad considering the calibre of stayer he was facing. More worrying was his last run, where he jumped terribly and to the right before being pulled up by Richard Johnson.
Trainer Philip Hobbs seems happy with his horse now however; giving upbeat bulletins on his schooling progress. And if the promise of his seasonal debut, and the level of form last season that saw him claim an Arkle victory over Finian’s Rainbow are to be believed then the double figure prices still available look big.
Big Buck’s is a warm order to claim a record fourth straight victory in the World Hurdle, but Oscar Whiskey has a great chance of upsetting the favourite. He’s the highest rated horse that Big Bucks will have faced over hurdles, and he may well be able to use his tactical speed to put Paul Nicholls’ horse under real pressure if he finds one of his flat spots mid-race.
The form of his victory over Get Me Out of Here in the Rinkeel was given a huge boost when that horse came second yesterday in the Coral Cup off a huge weight. It would be a major surprise if he failed to make the frame.
Thousand Stars is nearly twice the price of Oscar Whisky, which is surprising given only a neck separated the pair when they clashed in the Aintree Hurdle last April. However it’s difficult to recommend the grey given how Mullins’ horses have been so hard to predict this week. If he turns up at his best then he is a huge danger to all.
In the Kim Muir, little known trainer Noel Chance trains the fast-improving Brackloon High. The seven-year-old is bred to relish this test of stamina over just shy of the Gold Cup trip. His seasonal debut over hurdles was full of promise, and since he has gone chasing the gelding has improved greatly with each of his three runs. An eight pound rise in the handicap may not halt his progress, as relative to his hurdle form he could still have a lot to offer.
Rider R O Harding has taken this prize twice in the last six years, and is an eye-catching booking.
- Solix 2pts win @ 8/1
- Captain Chris 1pt win @ 12/1
- Oscar Whisky 1pt e/w @ 9/2
- Brackloon High 1pt win @ 14/1 – odds courtesy of Betfair