Novice Chasers take centre stage this weekend and should provide plenty of clues for next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
The five horses at the top of the market for tomorrow’s Scilly Isles Novices Chase at Sandown bring a variety of form-lines to the table, and it will be interesting to see which one prevails.
Market leader BENATAR made it three out of three last time at Ascot when his jumping was excellent, and Sandown should suit Gary Moore’s six-year-old as it is a real test of jumping for any novice.
FOUNTAINS WINDFALL, a drifter in the market, has twice fallen this season but routed his rivals in a Kempton handicap three weeks ago.
CYRNAME could find further improvement stepped up in trip after winning by seven lengths last time out, and his trainer Paul Nicholls has a great record in this race.
On the face of it KALONDRA looked especially good when beating three useful types at Cheltenham last time, but they all let that form down on their next runs and he may be vulnerable to one of the less exposed types.
That leaves us with Nicky Henderson’s TERREFORT who arguably has greater prospects in Wetherby’s Towton Novices Chase (2.40).
He’s entered in both but Carrigill’s have seen support for him in the Esher race which would suggest he’s going to the Scilly Isles and go 3/1 about a horse who made a mockery of his handicap mark on his winning British debut at Huntingdon.
The handicapper raised him from 137 to 151 on the back of that and in a cracking contest he could be the surprise package.
A trip to Surrey for Terrefort could play into the hands of CAPTAIN CHAOS in the Towton.
Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old fell in this race 12 months ago, but blinkers seemed to do the trick when winning over course and distance here in November.
Carrigill’s make BARNEY DWAN the favourite but don’t ignore Lucinda Russell’s BIG RIVER who has the quality to win at this level and beyond in what is another good contest for novices.
Up in Musselburgh the Scot’s can make their own claim in the Scottish County Hurdle (2.05) with the Jim Goldie-trained course and distance winner SIR CHAUVELIN.
TANDEM, trained by the ultra-shrewd Dermot Weld is next in the betting at 9/2. He’s also entered in Leopardstown’s 4.05, so if he makes the trip over the Irish Sea take the hint.
In Kempton’s Cleves Stakes (2.00) don’t miss Tom Dascombe’s KACHY who has found a new lease of life on the all weather after dropping down to handicaps for the first time since his three-year-old days, when he chased home Quiet Reflection in the 2016 Commonwealth Cup.
On a different sport, our resident rugby league experts tell me that St Helens are too good to miss with Carigill’s who bet 9/2 on them to be Super League regular season winners.
•CARRIGILL’S NAP (Stake returned as a free bet if selection does not finish in the top 4): BENATAR, Saturday Sandown, 2.25.
•AUGUR’S BEST BET: KACHY, Saturday, Kempton 2.00.