Timeform preview Saturday's Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle and pick out a bet.
"The form of that race has since been franked by the winner, who improved when finishing a length and a half second to Tikkanbar in a listed event at Cheltenham last weekend."
Claimantakinforgan tops Timeform weight-adjusted ratings at the five-day stage for Saturday's Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown, and is the horse to beat if turning up. Third in the Champion Bumper last term - a campaign which his trainer Nicky Henderson admits was one geared around minding the horse for hurdling this season - Claimantakinforgan won a novice at Newbury (by two and a quarter lengths from Lostintranslation) in November before improving plenty when following up in the Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle at Ascot last time, by the same wining margin from Dr Des.
He's a most exciting prospect but Henderson nominated the Dovecote (Kempton, February 24) as the horse's likely next port of call following that win, and, with the Supreme as a long-term target, Claimantakinforgan isn't sure to line up this weekend on heavy ground/the back of just a fortnight's rest.
Henderson - who has won this race four times this decade - has two other entries at this stage, including We Have a Dream, the impressive winner of the Summit Juvenile Hurdle at Doncaster last time. However, the four-year-old struggled when encountering testing ground in France (beaten twice) and has alternative entries against his own age group this weekend, so looks more likely to stick to taking on his potential Triumph Hurdle rivals.
Of more interest at the prices is Whatswrongwithyou. An Irish point winner, he showed useful form in bumpers last season, including a win on soft ground at Ludlow in March. He again showed a tendency to race keenly when a length second to Ainchea in a novice over C&D (soft ground) on hurdling debut last month, but showed plenty in the process, looking the type to go on to better things. The form of that race has since been franked by the winner, who improved when finishing a length and a half second to Tikkanbar in a listed event at Cheltenham last weekend. He may yet head elsewhere to pick up a small novice elsewhere, but with no other entries this week, Whatswrongwithyou looks worth chancing.
Like We Have A Dream, Sussex Ranger also has an entry at Chepstow on the same afternoon, however he would have a leading chance if taking up this engagement. He was fairly useful on the Flat, but has already bettered that in two starts over timber, producing a useful level of form when making all over C&D (beat Quothquan by 14 lengths) last month.
The ante-post market suggests that Kalashnikov and Western Ryder could put up stern challenges, and both have impressed this winter.
Western Ryder was two places behind Claimantakinforgan in the Champion Bumper, but unseated his rider when 6/1-on for his hurdling debut at Stratford. However, he has since recorded straightforward wins, first at Chepstow before improving again when following up at Cheltenham last time by two lengths from Lalor. He is proven on testing ground, should be suited by this test of stamina, and remains open to further improvement. Kalashnikov is unbeaten in his three starts under Rules, winning both hurdling starts by 10 lengths, most recently in extremely likeable fashion at Doncaster. He is another who will stay further in time and looks a big player here, open to any amount of improvement.
Sole Irish entry Speak Easy's sales price rose significantly after winning his sole outing in points, and he made an immediate impression on his Rules debut at Navan last month when stamping his authority all over the race in the latter stages. He didn't travel as fluently as some of the other principals that day, though, and looks more likely to take up an engagement over 2½m back at Navan on Sunday.
Mont des Avaloirs was two lengths ahead of subsequent Grade 2 winner Kilbricken Storm when falling on hurdling debut at Wincanton in November, and didn't need to improve when winning a three-runner race at Aintree last time (in receipt of weight from both rivals and had the run of the race too). He is proven on testing ground and, after making a bright start to his career, is respected in a race his trainer has won four times.
Of the others, The Russian Doyen looks most interesting. He overcame signs of inexperience when winning a novice at Exeter on hurdling debut by three and a quarter lengths from Run To Milan (winner since), making headway to lead three out after going in snatches. His future will lie over further, but he's proven on testing ground and, representing last year's winning trainer Colin Tizzard, shouldn't be discounted too readily.
Leading Supreme Novices' hope Claimantakinforgan would be very hard to beat if lining up, however a chance is taken on his stablemate Whatswrongwithyou handling a quick step up in grade. He is proven on testing ground and should hopefully settle better with a first run of the season under his belt; he looks overpriced.
Back Whatswrongwithyou in Saturday's Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown