Dan Barber provides you with three National Hunt bets today...
It was only six days ago that Evan Williams unleashed one of his most promising bumper horses of last season to make a successful hurdling debut, and his Hold Court can quickly follow in the Cheltenham-trod footsteps of Court Minstrel in Ludlow's opener at 14:10.
Hold Court possibly isn't quite so talented as Court Minstrel, but his bumper form, which featured two wins, including under a penalty at this track, makes him worthy of serious consideration this afternoon. By Champion Court's sire Court Cave and a half-brother to fairly useful hurdler Amalfatino, Hold Court is certainly bred to take to the new discipline, and he can enhance Evan Williams' apparent love affair with Ludlow by upsetting likely favourite Bab Al Salam, who missed a long time prior to his hurdling-debut third in a race at Huntingdon that hasn't as yet worked out.
Also at Ludlow, in the 16:15, it looks worth giving another chance to useful Flat winner Danvilla now that headgear has been applied. All looked rosy over hurdles as well for Paul Webber's mare when she won in good style at Bangor in a race that looks stronger than this one and, whilst she flopped at Fontwell next time and looked a shade awkward when third here on her latest outing, it could be that blinkers will allow her to put her best foot forward. She certainly shouldn't be around three times the price of Double Silver, who is inferior in terms of ability and finished only half a length ahead of Danvilla in their recent C&D clash.
And finally, up North at Carlisle, Ballyclough can reward connections' patience by proving himself a well-handicapped hurdler in the 16:30 at Carlisle. It's often a good sign when a trainer like Jonjo O'Neill sends a batch to a meeting so far afield, the implication being that he fancies a multiple-winner day, and in Ballyclough he has arguably his most interesting candidate. Ballyclough took well to hurdling when winning easily at Folkestone and then caught the eye in defeat under a considerate ride in a strong novice at Bangor when last seen in December, and his absence since shouldn't be deemed a huge worry considering he's won first time out in both seasons to date (half-brother to several who have also gone well fresh, including the same stable's Crocodile Rock).
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