01:33 - Wetherby Preview & Tips
Two wins a piece for Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs and Nigel Twiston-Davies in the last ten years and although we won’t be talking to the great man until Friday morning, it makes good sense to start here with his Ballyoptic (2/1) who coincidentally heads the early betting. He is undoubtedly one of the best horses in the yard and proved it with a win in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree at the end of last season and a victory at Chepstow in the Silver Trophy giving weight away to the next five home, and as that was his first run in exactly six months there is every chance he will strip a bit fitter this afternoon. He is certainly improving and took top rank among the staying novices last season and it will be interesting to find out if he really is a serious player for the World Hurdle 2017, though be warned, Nigel plans to walk the course in the morning and he will not run if the going is deemed to be too fast.
Sadly for Nigel we prefer the chances of Colin Tizzard’s Native River (15/2 Each Way) who is sent back over hurdles as his trainer possibly spots a gap in the market now his Thistlecrack is gong chasing this season. Stamina is certainly not an issue as he finished runner up to Minella Rocco in the four-mile National Hunt Chase before winning over three miles one furlong at Aintree when last seen in April. Rated 149 that day he hasn’t raced over hurdles since March 2015 but is sure to have been meticulously schooled by his trainer at home and is one of the more interesting entries who could seal his pale in the elite hurdlers list ahead of the rest of the season.
With Saphir Du Rheu sent chasing Paul Nicholls will rely on Silsol (15/2) here and although he hasn’t ever really lived up to expectations his trainer has yet to lose the faith and he could go well here at a price. Stamina is clearly not an issue after a win at Kelso over three and a quarter miles in April but he has run three times since without success with an eighth of twelve to stable companion Ptit Zig at Auteuil in June his latest effort. He doesn’t win often enough for our liking (five from fifteen over hurdles but only one in the last seven), but he could bounce back to his best for his in-form stable in which case he could yet be a serious challenger.
Although at first glance he fails to jump off the page as a major contender, the Philip Hobbs trained If In Doubt (4/1) is another who has been very well backed in the early markets. He did finish a respectable third in the Pertemps Final at the Festival which is decent form but not in our view up to this, and was fifth when last seen in April at Punchestown in the Champion Stayers Hurdle but may well be one of those horses who always runs well but never quite gets to the front and he does need to improve a little to get involved in the finish of this race.
To finalise our article for now Rebecca Curtis looks all set for a good season and The Romford Pele (7/1) did win last time out at Newton Abbot over three and a quarter miles plus. That does give him a fitness edge over some of his rivals here which is a big benefit and we suspect they will try to use him as necessary to test the fitness of those who may be a gallop short in which case the nine-year-old may well run better than his early odds suggest.