13:50 Sandown The entries for Listed Contenders Hurdle revolved around Nicky Henderson and as it has turned out he sends Buveur D’Air here to replace the injured Yanworth. This six year old has had his chasing career shelved for the time being. He was two from two over the larger obstacles but was unconvincing at times at Warwick. He sets the standard in the formbook on the back of his win in a Grade 1 Novices Hurdle at Aintree in which he beat the subsequent Irish Champion Hurdle winner Petit Mouchoir. He receives 4lb in weight from his main rivals, so there is plenty in his favour here. Fighting Fifth winner Irving has the additional aids of a tongue-tie and cheekpieces for this outing, which comes just two weeks after a tumble at Haydock in the Champion Hurdle Trial. If none the worse for that then he’ll be one ridden quietly before any late progress but he may struggle to keep tabs on Buveur D’Air. Rayvin Black is the obvious pacesetter in this one and he could try to string out his rivals along. He also reverts back to hurdles after a go over fences last time at Hereford and enjoys visits to this venue; from six starts here he’s won twice and finished second twice. Oliver Sherwood’s charge was second in this last year when able to dictate, so Barry Geraghty will have to keep close tabs on him from the saddle of the favourite. Buveur D’Air (Win)
14:05 Musselburgh The Edinburgh National over a marathon four mile trip sees 13-runners, including Alvarado, who has finished fourth in two Grand Nationals. Fergal O’Brien’s veteran was also second in last year’s Scottish Grand National off the mark, so is feasibly treated to run his race. He represents a trainer very much in-form with four winners in his last six runners, so he is one to watch in the market Paddy Brennan takes the ride inside of Paul Moloney, so that may see him ridden closer to the pace rather than out at the back. I’m a fan of Gonalston Cloud, who is a likeable type. The ten year old was second in the North Yorkshire Grand National last time when running on and is 3lb higher in this. He looked to be weakening on the turn for home but found another energy reserve to finish a neck ahead of Itstimeforapint. He’s been progressing under rules and is an out-and-out stayer, so is likely to play a hand in the finish if remaining out of trouble. This track can be good for front-running so Beeves has the potential to win from the front. The Rooney horse is an inconsistent type but if finding an early rhythm then could prove hard to pass given how game he’s been on previous wins at Hexham and Warwick over three miles. He’s represents a trainer based in Staffordshire, so she may have had him running up the hills to test his stamina. The other to mention is Dancing Shadow who looked to relish the test of stamina of Doncaster last time and despite being 9lb higher is one that should give his running on ground that suits. Gonalston Cloud (E/W)
14:25 Sandown The Grade 1 Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase looks a decent renewal despite just a field of five runners. Clan Des Obeaux is likely to go off favourite after a mightily impressive start to his chasing career at Newbury two starts back. He went to Cheltenham and went off the 10/11F but a mistake two from home seemed to stop his rhythm and curtail his chances. There was no shame in defeat to Whisper, who was making it two from two over fences himself. He remains open to improvement, especially with the tongue-tie now fitted, plus he receives weight from older rivals. Le Prezien and Top Notch finished second and third on their respective chase debuts at Uttoxeter in what was a decent race on the eye. The latter has gone on to win his next three starts, all at odds-on, for Nicky Henderson. This is a tougher ask than those trio of victories and I can see Le Prezien holding the form with Top Notch. Paul Nicholls charge was a useful novice hurdler and there is plenty to like about him in this field. The step up in trip should bring about further improvement considering the way he’s put to bed his two chase wins in November and December. He is the main player in this field, especially if Clan Des Obeaux isn’t foot perfect once more. Baron Alco deserves a mention. This front-running type may get an easy time out in the lead and has a course win to his name. His won at Plumpton last time and the third has seen won giving that form some credence. This is tough but he’ll handle the ground and if getting an unopposed lead he could prove tough to pass. Le Prezien (Win)
14:45 Wetherby The talking horse in the build up to this race has been Calett Mad and you can see why on his performance at Taunton last time. He did that in good style making it two wins since moving from France and the five year old looks to have the scope to improve further. The soft ground will suit and if continuing his sound jumping he’s greatly respected. However I’m taking him on with Sandy Thomson’s The Dutchman, who has shown his past liking to this track with two wins and a second here. He was third at Kelso behind Aux Ptits Soins over this trip when a mistake seemed to cost him his momentum before losing second on the run-in. Considering he was giving weight away that day it was a creditable effort and he is bred to stay. With overnight rain forecast in Yorkshire it could turn testing and he’s proven himself on that here, so he gets the nod. Captain Chaos has ran in a Grade 2 and a Listed event on his first two goes over fences, which shows how highly thought of he is by Dan Skelton. The form of the third in the Listed race at Warwick seems to be working out with the fourth winning since. Both starts have seen pleasing progress and he is one to put on the shortlist if further improving given that he is a galloping type that might be suited to this tracks conventions. Missed Approach won at Lingfield last time on his second chase start but could use this as a prep run for something at the festival next month.
The Dutchman (Win)
A Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle where we’ll see the strength of the Chepstow form that is advertised by Rolling Dylan (second) and Desert Sensation (third).
Philip Hobbs’ six year old has gone up 8lb for that second and is very much open to more improvement second time in a handicap with the cheekpieces on for the first time. If he can build on that effort then he’s a big player in an open race. Richard Johnson is in the saddle and these paired up with the winner Saddlers Encore in this last year
The third, Desert Sensation, is one on the upgrade and despite going down by 5l that day can reverse that form for a number of reasons. In this he looks one of the clearer pace angles plus if he settles early on then he should be able to see out the trip better than he did at Chepstow. Dr Richard Newland’s inmate can give a good account of himself from the front in this contest.
KK Lexion was a ready 10l winner at Wincanton ahead of Fortunate George. The extra distance he faces should suit this son of Flemensfirth and the ground won’t be an issue. The 14lb rise in the weights and in a race that lacks pace he may find it not run to suit. Fortunate George is still lightly raced for a seven year old and may improve for this trip. A 12lb swing in the weights here should see another good run from Emma Lavelle’s charge. One at a big price is Colin Tizzard’s Valhalla, who has solid form in some staying handicap hurdles. He’s on the same mark for a third behind Call To Order at Cheltenham in December and he is one that will travel well but fails to find too much off the bridle. Place claims at an each-way price. Desert Sensation (E/W)
15:15 Musselburgh The Scottish County Hurdle is one that could be run at a decent pace, which may set it up for a closer. Aristo Du Plessis hasn’t hit the heights of 2015 but is likely to be prominent from the off, as is Dominada, who is a course winner after making all over further than today’s trip. Brian Ellison’s charge stays well, so if finding a rhythm out in front is one they will have to aim at if able to cope with a rise in the weights. He’s been in good heart of late and can continue in a similar vein of form here. Optimus Prime was a Listed winner back in France when winning at Pau a year ago. He bowled along in front on his first start for the Skelton yard when second at Huntingdon after a break. He’ll be fitter for that effort and Bridget Andrews offsets the rise in weights following that run. With how he went he could find this sharper track right up his street and isn’t dismissed lightly. Fred Winter winner Diego Du Charmil needs to bounce back from two poor efforts but the vote goes to Drumcliff after being unlucky in running at Kempton. Every man and his dog will have seen how his momentum was lost two out last time when travelling well. The 3lb rise in the weights seems fair and this half-brother to Simonsig remains unexposed and definitely can get off the mark over hurdles here. Ian Williams is a trainer who has his runners in fine fettle and his six year old narrowly went down at Market Rasen when carrying a penalty for a win at Leicester. He was useful on the flat and has made a good transition to the jumping game. There is more to come from him and is a decent prize down the line. Drumcliff (Win)
15:35 Sandown Beg To Differ was fourth in the Welsh Grand National when showing a return to form after an unseat and two poor runs. He’s been dropped 3lb by the handicapper, so he’s been given a chance back in a handicap and can’t be ruled out in this after a course and distance win at this time of year last season when the visor was fitted for the first time. He has lost his way somewhat since then and if that run hasn’t taken it’s toll then should go well. Loose Chips was third in the Veterans Chase here last time and we know he loves it around here with two wins, two seconds and a third. He’ll go from the front but there will be a challenger for the lead, so that would be a concern because he can spit his dummy out at times. He’s still 2lb higher than his last winning mark but he put in a career best last time and has the potential from an each-way angle. The other front-runner Otago Trail is the play given his liking for a test of stamina. He came back from a break to win the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in good style when best positioned in those conditions plus he jumped much the best. Bristol De Mai did manage to reverse that form in the Peter Marsh Chase two weeks ago but that margin of defeat was enhanced by a blunder two from home. Charlie Deutsch takes 3lb off from the saddle and this nine year old looks to have a profile to take the honours in this. Otago Trail (E/W if 9/2+)