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Mark your Card: your best bets for today’s Grade racing

Declan Smyth studies the form in today’s feature as the Tingle Creek Festival gets underway at Sandown.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Winter Novices Hurdle (Grade 2)

SANDOWN’S TINGLE CREEK Christmas Festival gets underway this afternoon with the Winter Novices Hurdle over 2m4f the feature race on the card. The advance going yesterday was soft (heavy in places) but with rain, that could change to heavy before the off.

Although only five have been declared, this is an interesting and tricky Grade 2 contest.

Dunlough Bay won last time out but he will need to find a lot of improvement to win this afternoon.

Emma Lavelle’s Le Bec is a half-brother to the useful Tocca Ferro who raced for the same connections. At over 17 hands high, his future is likely to be over fences. He did win his novice hurdle in impressive fashion last month though, albeit against a weak enough field. The word is that he does not want extremes of going, so the rain might put paid to any chances he has.

Southfield Theatre joined the Paul Nicholls team after two runs for Caroline Keevil, finishing a close fourth in a listed bumper to The New One at Cheltenham on his second run. Nicholls once described him as a “big, green baby” but the horse has continued to improve and impress the trainer, winning a Cheltenham bumper on his only start for him.

He is reported to be schooling well by the trainer who believes he could be seriously good, but it remains to be seen if that lack of experience will count against him.

Taquin Du Seuil represents Jonjo O’Neill. A French import who had form over 2m on the flat there, he should have no trouble staying the trip.

He won impressively on his debut for the stable over hurdles at Uttoxeter in October, and then was beaten less than two lengths by the highly-regarded My Tent Or Yours at Ascot. The 2m trip that day was probably a bit short for him, and he is a very interesting runner who has the advantage of experience over the others.

Donald McCain’s Up And Go fell on his first start in a point before following up with an emphatic victory at Lemonfield. He then moved to McCain’s where he impressed in winning a novice bumper on his first start at Uttoxeter in November. He could be anything and is open to more improvement.

Experience will count here and a small interest in TAQUIN DU SEUIL could pay dividends. Whatever happens, it might be worth putting a few of these in the notebook for later on in the season.

Reproduced with permission from WhiteFlagIsRaised.com >>

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Declan Smyth

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