Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls sends two to Sandown this afternoon including last-time out faller Fago who could be Cheltenham Festival bound if he can put in a good display today...
15:25 Sandown - Fago
We liked what we saw of him in France. And, clearly, he made a highly promising debut for us when winning at Newbury, travelling and jumping beautifully in the main to beat a fair yardstick in Ohio Gold. So it was rather frustrating, to put it mildly, when he stumbled and fell two out in the Kingmaker at Warwick last time when hard on the bridle. If he had stood up, you would have thought that he would have posted a performance that would have ensured that we went for the Arkle with him.
But I never like to take any horse to Cheltenham on the back of a fall, so we will see if his confidence has been affected here. His schooling and work at home since then suggests not. But the problem with him is that, while he jumps great, he still tends to flick through the top of his fences, French-style. And it can take three or four runs for them to adapt to our fences.
So we will see how he gets on here - and although the race has cut up to just three runners, the other two are unexposed last time-out winners so it's not a gimme by any means - before making any Festival plans. Simonsig and Overturn do set a very high standard in the Arkle and the Jewson would be an easier option, but at this stage I think he is a two miler.
17:05 Sandown - Morito Du Berlais
We were going to run him in a jumpers' bumper at Wolverhampton recently but he wasn't quite right in the morning, so we pulled him out. And then we were well set to go to Exeter about a fortnight ago but we pulled him out on account of the ground along with my other unraced bumper horse on the card. Let's hope it is third time lucky, and he can at least get a race under his belt here.
He is a half-brother to the smart French hurdler Nikita Du Berlais, and is a nice sort who goes well enough at home. But he is no morning glory and has taken a while to come to hand, and is still pretty green and backward. Will need the experience, and this looks a very hot bumper anyway.