On a bumper weekend of racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, Adam Baylis takes a look at the domestic action with four selections from Sandown and Lingfield...
"Lucy Wadham and Venetia Williams have accounted for the last four winners between them, and despite the stable having a sub-par season, I think this could be one that Venetia Williams takes home with Yala Enki at 8/1."
Nicky Henderson's record in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at 14:25 commands the utmost respect, tasting victory on four occasions in the last ten years with the likes of Top Notch and Oscar Whisky. He's solely represented this year by French import Terrefort who couldn't have been more impressive at Huntingdon last time. He looks to have a bright future and the fact he gets 3lb here only serves to make him an even more attractive proposition at 5/4.
The Grade 3 Hurdle at 15:00 looks really competitive stuff with Harry Fry's Melrose Boy the 4/1 market leader. He won a Class 4 hurdle by 50 lengths last time and has been well backed on all his starts this season but he was well beaten at Newbury in December and I do wonder if he's suited better by heavy ground - the forecast is set fair before showers due on Saturday.
Paul Nicholls has enjoyed some success in this contest and his Topofthegame is well worth shortlisting stepping up in trip but I wonder if he's lumping a bit too much weight in this. Lurking further down the handicap is Fergal O'Brien's Okotoks, he had his first run for the yard in December after leaving Tony Martin and while he ran adequately, more was clearly expected based on market support.
He was unlucky not to finish third in the Grade 2 Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan earlier in his career and I just wonder if O'Brien can eek some improvement out of the eight-year-old. At 20/1 it's certainly worth chancing for last year's winning yard and the booking of Sean Bowen is eye-catching, finishing in the money on all his rides for the trainer.
The Masters Handicap Chase at 15:35 again looks very competitive, Lucy Wadham and Venetia Williams have accounted for the last four winners between them, and despite the stable having a sub-par season, I think this could be one that Venetia Williams takes home with Yala Enki at 8/1.
He's run well in Listed and Graded company this campaign, most recently finishing fourth in the Peter Marsh a fortnight ago. The eight-year-old now finds himself back on his last winning mark at a track he's proven he handles - he was third in the aforementioned Grade 3 hurdle on this card in 2015. Favourite Final Nudge has obvious claims dropping back in trip but I just wonder how well prepared he'll be for this after a big run in the Badger Ales and running in awful conditions at Chepstow in the Welsh National.
The Listed Cleves Stakes at 14:00 is a who's who of all-weather sprinters and perennial Lingfield bridesmaid Mythmaker has been dealt a handy draw in stall two - three of the last five winners have emerged from said box. Bryan Smart's gelding go his head in front at Kempton last time, keeping on well in front of some decent performers, his form figures at this course read 2212252 and the presence of Ryan Moore on Roger Varian's Double Up will likely make him a decent enough betting proposition.
However the Winter Derby Trial at 15:05 should be a more straight-forward task for Moore aboard the William Haggas trained Victory Bond. The son of Medicean acquitted himself well against decent opposition during the summer and he should've won here in November were it not for an awkward start.
Marco Botti's Red Label could be the fly in the ointment on his all-weather bow, he was placed in a Group 3 in Italy and the Newmarket handler knows what it takes to win this contest, having tasted victory twice in the last three years.
2017/18 P&L: +21.4pts
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