Man On The Spot: Choca-holic
Man On The Spot previews the action from both Sandown Park and Wincanton that will be shown live on ITV4 on Saturday.
Chocala is fancied to win the finale at Sandown
Bold Henry won this last year but is still 4lb higher having failed to sparkle since. He was pulled up behind Bright New Dawn at Punchestown in April but the former Gordon Elliott inmate is having his first run today for Venetia Williams and has been off the track since August. Bold Henry's stablemate GARDE LA VICTOIRE was only headed in the shadows of the post in a Grade 2 at Exeter before reverting to hurdles at Ascot. Eight of his 11 career wins have come over this trip and he has the class to defy top weight. De Faoithesdream was still clear when falling three out at Cheltenham in a race in which Savello also came to grief. He could be a danger granted a clear round while Ulck Du Lin is starting to come down the weights. Hollywoodien has a good strike rate over fences but may be a shade high in the weights now.
Will appear here WALK IN THE MILL has taken a bit of time to reach his peak since arriving from France but he looked much more like the finished article when carrying a big weight to victory at Exeter in November and with further progress likely can shrug off a 5lb rise. Fox Appeal, who is rated 149 over hurdles, was on a 16lb lower mark when scoring comfortably over fences at Ludlow last month and though hit with an 11lb hike it will be a surprise if he doesn't again get involved in the shake-up. Some Buckle has been aimed high after his victory at Haydock in March and will appreciate this slight drop in class, a remark that also applies to Ballygarvey, though the latter hasn't run for over a year. Paul Nicholls' Orbasa has been slightly disappointing since making a successful debut for the yard in February but still has plenty of time on his side and it would be no surprise to see him get involved.
A strong renewal of this Grade 1, won last year by subsequent Neptune Investment winner Yorkhill. A few of these will also have Cheltenham aspirations including Capitaine, who bounced back from an unexpected reverse at Haydock to land a Grade 2 at Ascot when easy to back. Finian's Oscar went into several notebooks when sauntering clear at Hereford before Christmas but this is a big step up in class and a drop in distance. Charlemar has won both starts over hurdles and was impressive at Aintree but we'll take a chance that CHALONNIAL finds the necessary improvement to get competitive. He was very green when landing an ordinary Bangor event last month but still won with any amount in hand and will know more today. Former pointer Global Stage and Celestial Path are making their hurdling debuts in exalted company but the latter was a 100-plus handicapper on the Flat for Sir Mark Prescott and could be useful if taking to jumping.
Pilgrims Bay defied mistakes to scramble home at Sandown but fell on his next start at Wetherby. Draytonian makes his chasing debut as does dual hurdles winner FAVORITO BUCK'S (NAP) but the latter won a Listed contest on his debut over timber at Auteuil and has always been destined for the bigger obstacles so gets the vote. Wild West Wind is yet another having his first start over fences and would have to be considered if the ground turned heavy as he won over hurdles on testing ground at Chepstow. Bagging Turf made a winning start over fences at Huntingdon where she jumped and stayed well and though Third Act showed moderate form over fences last season he's improved since reverting to hurdles. Clondaw Banker hasn't run since April and has his first start over fences under Rules but would have a chance on his hurdles form providing the ground doesn't turn too testing.
As a dual Grade 1 winner, Dynaste is probably entitled to be favourite for this racing of a mark of 145. But the grey, in common with a few of these, does not appear to be the force of old and was soon in trouble last time at Kelso when behind several of these. GAS LINE BOY won that contest in a canter and Ian Williams appears to have coaxed some improvement out of the 11-year-old, who was a thorough stayer in his earlier years. He can again beat Cloudy Too, Aerial and Wychwoods Brook, despite a 9lb higher mark, and come out on top despite the claims of Rocky Creek, winner of the London National here last month and only 4lb higher. Shuil Royale has never won off a mark this high but arrives in good form, as does Forgotten Gold. Astracad beat Ericht at Wetherby on Boxing Day but this is probably too far for both. Colin Tizzard has been cleaning up in staying chases this season and Theatrical Star has plummeted down the weights, though hasn't won in more than two years.
Winning bumper Above Board landed a maiden hurdle at Carlisle last month and is entitled to improve though the runner-up has been beaten subsequently. FORTUNATE GEORGE won over the track and trip in April and didn't reappear until November. He looked ready to win again soon with a good run at Ascot last month and looks the one to be on. Kk Lexion is progressing nicely but takes a slight step-up in class and is 11lb higher than his victory at Southwell while Bradford Bridge makes his handicap debut against experienced rivals. Clondaw Bisto is another handicap debutant but he's already won a point and a bumper so could be well handicapped and Trans Express is just 5lb higher than his victory in this grade at Exeter, though tackles a longer trip.
Discours D'un Roi has his first run for Nicky Henderson following a lengthy absence but could be anything having won twice in minor company in France. Stablemate Maestro Royal is weighted to reverse Cheltenham running with Kapstadt while Robinshill has won three of his last four so can't be discounted. CHOCALA has come up against potentially smart novices in his two runs to date over timber this season. A winning stayer on the Flat, this could be his opportunity to get off the mark over jumps as his stable is in fine form. John Reel has recent good form on the Flat to his name and has been very lightly raced over hurdles. He could be on a decent mark and market support would be significant.
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