A small field of eight go to post for today’s feature at Newbury, a Grade 1 over 2m4f with £22,780 going to the winner. Read on for our expert’s thoughts and betting tips.
IN SUMMARY: This race could potentially throw up some good performers who will no doubt be bound for Cheltenham in the Spring. Balthazar D’allier was a ready winner at Naas on his hurdles debut for his top connections and won with any amount in had that day, having some decent opposition off the bridle from a fair way out. He should go well again in better company but he bumps into some progressive sorts today not least impressive hurdles winner ROBIN ROE. He beat a couple of subsequent winners in good style last time out and could be dangerous to discount returning from a short break as he bids to take this en route to better things. He is held in high regard by his trainer and should be tough to beat. Messire Des Obeaux looks best of the rest.
1 Ami Desbois – Got off the mark in good style on his final start last term when winning at Hexham (Good/Soft) by eleven lengths over 2m7f and showed an absence of six months was no problem when scoring on his return at Haydock last month by 2 ½ lengths from an unchanged mark. Put up 4lb for that win and ran a career best to finish runner up in a Grade 2 hurdle three weeks ago behind well fancied favourite from the Nicky Henderson yard. That wasn’t the strongest race for the grade with only six runners and needs to prove he can do it dropped back down to 2m4f today but should go well from the front and ideally would prefer more rain but one to watch closely in the market especially if the money comes for him.
2 Balthazar D’allier – Point winner who cost 30,000 Euros as a 3-y-o and scored with any amount in hand when winning on hurdles debut at Naas (Good/Soft) last month over 2m3f. Looks a good prospect for top connections and interesting they bring him over for this given his long-term future lies over the bigger obstacles and improvement looks forthcoming. Player.
3 Cultivator – Won a bumper on second start when the well backed favourite and did it nicely enough by 2¼ lengths at Ascot (Good) last Autumn and got off the mark on second start over hurdles when a ready winner returned to that track two months ago on better ground, landing a Class 3 novices’ hurdle by four lengths from the well fancied Bagad Bigue from the Paul Nicholls yard. Only third in a Grade 2 at Sandown (Soft) last month behind the reopposing Messire Des Obeaux. Has been hooded for his last four starts and that is left off today but needs a bit more to win this given he was on and off the bridle for a long way last time and can be overlooked today.
4 Elegant Escape – Bought for 150,000 Euros after finishing runner up in his sole start in points and has proved that was money well spent by winning both starts over hurdles so far albeit by short margins, including on latest start when beating the well fancied Laser Light from the Alan King yard at Ascot (Good/Soft) last month. Didn’t travel as well over his hurdles as connections would have liked and more expected of him this time around for top yard but this much tougher and will need to jump much better against smarter rivals today.
5 Major Mac – Dual purpose performer but only modest form over middle distances on the flat and hurdles so far up to 2m4f with one win in each sphere. Scored over hurdles on his first start over hurdles this term after three runs on the flat in a three runner event over C&D but only mid-division in a Class 4 at Sandown (Soft) on last start and looks up against it in this company.
6 Messire Des Obeaux – Seventh in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap at Cheltenham in the Spring and been in good form on first run since that race when winning for the first time over hurdles at Bangor (Heavy) last month, wining easily by ten lengths. Followed up in good style when finding plenty to win a Grade 2 at Sandown twenty eight days ago (Cultivator third) by ½ a length and no reason to think he shouldn’t continue to give a good account stepped up in class again with trip/ground fine. Place claims.
7 Peak To Peak – Won on the flat in France last year albeit it minor company and got off the mark at the first time of asking when landing a Class 4 at Fontwell (Soft) in good style by two lengths last month. Interesting now pitched into this company by top connections but faces some classy rivals today and best watched for now trying this trip for the first time also.
8 Robin Roe – Lightly raced 5-y-o who has won his last three starts including Point/Bumper wins in good style before trouncing a field of nine over this trip at Aintree (Good) at the first time of asking, beating No Comment by twelve lengths. That one has gone to score back to back wins at Class 4 level in good style. Held in high regard by his trainer and still unexposed, he can take this step up in class in his stride as he looks to be aimed at some bigger targets as the season progresses. Big player.