A wide open and very competitive novice handicap hurdle with the big yards duly represented. Paul Nicholls has two fancied runners in Act Of Valour and Mont Des Avaloirs, the former is improving but his best performances have come on sharper tracks than this while Mont Des Avaloirs is a free-going sort with plenty of ability but may find it hard to dominate in such a big field. Simon Munir and Isaac Souede have two in the race, Ballymoy has been a different animal since wind surgery and has to be on the shortlist, though he has only won races at lesser tracks while Oistrakh Le Noir is no forlorn hope @ 16/1 with the return to a more galloping course in his favour. Show On The Road for the champion jockey Richard Johnson and Phillip Hobbs has to come into calculations @ 11/1 after an impressive handicap win at Exeter with his trainer stating that he should improve for better ground. Highway One O One found grade three company too hot on his penultimate start but should be considered here while Going Gold will be doing his best work at the finish @ 28/1. Ar Mest looked like he had learned to settle and could go well @ 14/1 but still needs to improve his hurdling while Notre Ami has bits and pieces of decent form and should enjoy the better ground @ 28/1.
The two to concentrate on look to be improving types Mjjack and Lualiwa @ 5/1 and 6/1 respectively. Tactics will be interesting as both tend to race prominently and with Calder Prince also in the field, this could become quite a testing seven furlongs. Mjjack won well at Newmarket producing a very good performance with the only question mark being can he improve again? Or will he feel the effects of that effort that was only eleven days ago? Lualiwa was impressive at Musselburgh, has some good three year old form and looks the type to improve again but would not want to get into a battle with Calder Prince up front. Calder Prince won well at Wolverhampton and a repeat of that from on turf would make him a player here. The evergreen Bertiewhittle cannot be ruled out, Medieval needs to prove himself in this class, Get Knotted and Robero are capable of winning if fit while Burnt Sugar and Amazour are also possible winners but they have to handle the softer ground.
Double Shuffle has somewhat of a lofty rating for his second in the King George but his profile suggests that he only produces his best at Kempton so he may be one to swerve. Nicky Henderson has previously mentioned that Top Notch would enjoy this step up in trip so he looks the one to beat @ 11/8 presuming he has put his below par effort at Ascot behind him. Art Mauresque did not enjoy his experience in this race last year when pulled up before three out and has it do with the same applying to Paul Nicholls’ other runner Alcala who needs to find plenty on ratings. O O Seven has struggled in heavy ground on his last three starts but likes it at Sandown and could go well @ 16/1 for Nico De Boinville and is worth a try at this unique trip.
Winning a seven furlong conditions race at Thirsk is very different from a listed race at the stiff track that is Leicester and Kimberella is worth sidestepping here as is Jallota who’s best performances come on flatter tracks. The untapped potential is Roger Varian’s Emmaus who quickened well to win a handicap last October over course and distance and looks the one to beat @ 3/1, presuming he has wintered well. Irish raider Downforce has some solid form at this level, will enjoy the ground and looks a touch big @ 14/1. Versatile trip wise is Donjuan Triumphant who has to be respected while the enigmatic Gulliver @ 12/1 has the ability to win if it is a going day.
Ar Mad and Special Tiara will make sure there is no hiding place as both like to force the pace. Ar Mad is talented but was pulled up lame last time and doubts continue while Special Tiara was second in this race last year but may do too much up front with Ar Mad and could pay for it late on. Altior should win this comfortably and his price reflects that, though he is never that pleasing on the eye as his engine does not kick in until the latter stages. God’s Own comes to himself at this time of year but does not seem to be the horse of old and with San Benedeto not in the same form as last year it may be Aintree winner Diego Du Charmil who can pick up the pieces late on and he could be value in a market without Altior.
The wind operation obviously did the world of good to Missed Approach on the evidence of his Cheltenham victory and he looks the one to beat here @ 8/1 as long as those exertions have not left a mark. In recent times this race has gone to relatively lightly raced types, the last five winners having had between seven and eleven chase starts so that could rule out Step Back who lacks the experience for this but it does bring into play last year’s sixth and seventh Rock The Kasbah and Sugar Baron. Rock The Kasbah has been trained for this race and goes well fresh though a line has to be put through his run at Haydock on heavy ground last time. He has cheekpieces on here, may yet improve over fences and should go well @ 12/1. Sugar Baron is not the easiest of rides but is talented and goes well at Sandown, he too can put a lacklustre run behind him and go well @ 12/1. Blaklion’s promising season has lost its way since encountering testing conditions at Haydock, if at his best he should be thereabouts but that run in February may have taken its toll. Benbens and Theatre Guide were placed in this race last year and could do so again, previous winner The Young Master lurks on a dangerous mark while outsiders Rathlin Rose @ 20/1 and Domesday Book @ 50/1 could go well.
Quickened Clear’s Best Bets:
Show On The Road – 1.50 Sandown – 1pt win @ 10/1
It may be the most competitive race on ITV this Saturday but one that appeals is Show On The Road. Phillip Hobbs seven year old has obviously had problems but he is now making up for lost time, his latest effort an eleven length handicap success from Trans Express at Exeter. With his trainer stating he should improve for better ground, his brother Big Jer’s sole success under rules came on good ground, means he could still be some way ahead of the handicapper and is worth a bet @ 10/1.