THE GRADE One Challow Hurdle at Newbury has proven to be a great race to follow when looking for stars of the future.
Run over a trip of 2m 4f, tomorrow’s (Saturday) contest has been won by some promising sorts over the years, including Wichita Lineman, Diamond Harry, Reve De Sivola, Fingal Bay, Taquin du Seuil, while last year’s contest was won by Poetic Rhythm.
Recognised as the best trial for horses hoping to compete in the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, as well as being a big race in its own right, the roll of honour also includes Denman who famously won at Newbury in 2005/06. The Paul Nicholls horse went on to win a Gold Cup and a couple of Hennessy’s during his career, but it was his Challow success that started the ball rolling.
In recent years we’ve seen five of the last 10 market leaders win the race while trainers Nick Williams and Jonjo O’Neill have won the race five times between them since 2006. Trainer Alan King landed the spoils two years ago with Messire Des Obeaux and his entry this year, ALSA MIX, has a similar profile and is easy to back at 7s with Carrigill’s.
The mare won the Grade Two Winter Novices’ at Sandown last time out where she coped admirably with a big rise in class to beat the boys over a longer trip on testing ground. King admits to being very happy with her since and said: “I hope she can handle this further trip up to Grade One company but it’s going to be a tough ask.”
The Bunbury handler may also run two former decent flat performers at Newbury in the shape of PRAECEPS, who came from Sir Mark Prescott’s yard, and REVEREND JACOBS a decent handicapper for William Haggas.
Following Boxing Day’s feast of racing at 11 meetings, today’s (Friday) action is predictably of a much lower profile, but the Gary Moore trained RYDAN can keep up the good work on the sand in the 2m handicap at Lingfield (1.45).
He’s not the most straight forward of horses but won with plenty to spare at Kempton last time and can overcome a 5lb rise in a weak looking 0-85 handicap. On the face of it all his seven opponents have doubts of sorts against them, including Mark Johnston’s DALILEO who romped home in a seller at Wolverhampton last time. But he looks vulnerable to an in-form RYDAN in the closing stages.
Over the Irish Sea it has also been a huge week at Leopardstown and look for BEN DUNDEE to hunt the opposition down in the Grade One novice chase there tomorrow (Saturday 1.55). The Punchestown winner was injured when pulled up at Navan last time out and if back to his best is a good each way gamble.
The story of the Irish scene so far has been the decline of SAMCRO after Gigginstown’s decision to stick to hurdling. A lack of race fitness was blamed for his defeat in the WKD Hurdle before he was effortlessly swept aside by Buveur D’Air in the Fighting Fifth, but his shock defeat in the Christmas Hurdle at the hands of Verdana Blue on Boxing Day means it’s now make or break time for SAMCRO. But the Ryanair Hurdle (2.30), sponsored by his owner Michael O’Leary, should suit him far more than the Fighting Fifth when he was forced to make his own running, and I make him a banker.
CARRIGILL’S NAP (Stake returned as a free bet if selection does not finish in the top 4): ALSA MIX, Saturday, 3.00, Newbury.
AUGUR’S BEST BET: SAMCRO, Saturday, 2.30, Leopardstown.