12:55 Wincanton - It's a Close Call
Won his only point for Richard Barber and, while I don't like talking my young horses up too much, you couldn't fail to be impressed by his victory here in November. And it didn't help that Denman and Rolling Aces both won that same race, which plenty mentioned afterwards.
Now, the form of the race hasn't worked out that well, so we shouldn't be getting ahead of ourselves here - and I have bypassed a couple of good contests with him in the past six weeks - but I'd be lying if I said he wasn't an exciting prospect. But this does look to be a very good novices' hurdle for the track, and Harry's Fletchers Flyer is the one to beat.
13:50 Sandown - Mr Mole
Has been called some names in the past but a strike rate of 6 wins in 13 starts doesn't read too badly to me, and he appears to have enjoyed making the running on his last two starts. I think that we will see how the race unfolds before deciding what tactics to adopt today but he is clearly versatile, and I certainly believe that he has the talent to be winning handicaps off his current mark. And decent ground suits him. But this is a competitive little race, as you'd expect for the money. I think he will go well, though.
14:05 Wincanton - Atlantic Roller
Suffered a very bad injury coming back in his horsebox after winning at Exeter a couple of seasons ago, and he hasn't been the same horse since on the track. But we have been patient with him and I would like to think that a chase mark of 122 is workable. We have to see him do it on the course, though. Had a breathing operation in the summer and took a while to come to hand, but he does seem in good order at the moment.
14:40 Wincanton - Two Runners
Suffered an injury to his hock when falling when in with every chance here over a year ago, and it has taken us a while to get him back. Hopefully, he remains a pretty exciting chasing prospect, but we start him off over hurdles here on what is a pretty fair mark judged on his novice hurdle win. This is a talented horse if we have got him back, and it wouldn't surprise me if he went close. Runs in a tongue tie.
Won his bumper here in the soft and returned to winning form back in that type of ground at Taunton last time. The form of that race is working out ok - the third won at Exeter on Thursday - and I think a mark of 122 gives this unexposed horse a good chance. Should go very well.
15:00 Sandown - Bouvreuil
Hasn't been with us that long, as we only bought him after he won a 2m1f110yd hurdle at Enghien in November, so we are still feeling our way with him. His win in France probably doesn't amount to a great deal but he has done everything that we have asked of him at home, though everyone knows by now that we let the racecourse do the talking with our French juvenile recruits.
I think a mark of 133 is pretty tough on what he has shown to date, though I don't know for sure - though I see Timeform only rate him 118p - but I'd rather let him take his chance in here with Sean taking 5lb off, rather than running him in a 10lb penalty in the opener.
15:15 Wincanton - Two Runners
Ran his best race of the season when fifth in the Grand Sefton last time, and he is at least continuing to come down the weights at the same time. The trip and the ground are fine for him and he should be thereabouts if running his race, but I just wonder whether one or two of these will prove better handicapped. The more rain the better for him, and it is due to be wet here on Saturday.
Finally came good when winning in first-time cheekpieces at Taunton last time and hopefully he can build on that from a 6lb higher mark. We did tweak his training regime before that win - we trained him on our new flat gallop instead of up the hill - and hopefully that is the key to him. Still only a 6yo and very lightly-raced, there is plenty of scope for further progress.
15:35 Sandown - Unioniste
I don't think it is any secret that John Hales would like to win another Grand National one day with this horse, and we possibly could try this season. We will see; remember, he is still only a 7yo. He had his breathing tweaked in the summer and came in later than the rest of mine, so in the circumstances we were pretty pleased with his sixth in the Hennessy first time up. He was beaten a fair way though, and I have been gearing his season to the spring given that he returned to training so late.
But the handicapper has dropped him 3lb since Newbury, conditions should suit, and I'd be pretty hopeful that he will put up a bold showing off a mark of 148 - that looks very fair on his Aintree win last season - with the benefit of that comeback run. I think that this is the first time that he has raced right-handed for us, so hopefully that won't be an issue.
15:50 Wincanton - Celestino
Has run two solid races for us since coming over from France, and I'd like to think that the handicapper has given him a fair chance of 110, even if the form of that Warwick race last time hasn't worked out that well. I can see him going close.