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Punter's Diary by Malcolm Heyhoe

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punter's diary
Updated: 1st February 2012 - GG.com

Fab Gems In Feb

Sifting for Cheltenham clues is the name of the game for February's jumps action, and Sandown sounds the starting horn for a month of competitive racing with a high-class card on February 4.

Traditionally the feature race on an informative afternoon has to be the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase and this grade one contest over 2m 3f has been won by some racing greats in seasons past and it goes without saying that the winner is always worth following.

Binocular
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Binocular
Providing the ground does not get too chewed up at the Esher track, Champion Hurdle aspirant Binocular will be putting his Festival credentials on the line in Sandown's Champion Hurdle trial and it will be interesting to see whether a minor breathing operation has made an appreciable difference to the increasingly erratic performances of the one-time Champion Hurdler.

Over at Wetherby on February 4, the Towton Novices' Chase is always a useful guide to the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March and trainer Pam Sly will be hoping that stable star Helpston will be good enough to go one better than he managed when runner-up to According To Pete over course and distance last time.

Raya Star
© Racehorse Photos

Raya Star
February is the key date in February's racing calendar and Newbury stages the Betfair Hurdle, Europe's richest handicap over the smaller obstacles on the 11th. Top trainers Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls exert a tight grip on this year's race courtesy of market leaders Zarkandar and Darlan while Ladbroke Hurdle hero Raya Star and the luckless Olofi also figure prominently in the ante-post market.

On the same card Long Run puts his slightly shaky Gold Cup claims on show in the Denman Chase and he should win this with ease. Cheltenham's Argento Chase, which was won by Midnight Chase, revealed how bare the cupboard is at the top end of the chasing game with two notable exceptions in Long Run and Kauto Star and this pair surely have the Gold Cup between them in March.

In the Game Spirit Chase the wonderful Sprinter Sacre should be too good for Cue Card and any other horse that deigns to jump in the ring and take on Nicky Henderson's would-be superstar and his presence alone in the Game Spirit should ensure a healthy crowd at the Berkshire venue.

In the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on the following day, February 12, Synchronised bids to show that his Lexus win over the same course and distance over Christmas was not a fluke while on the same card Philip Fenton's rising star Last Instalment looks a good thing to land the Dr PJ Moriarty Chase.

Over at Haydock on February 18 David Pipe's Junior should enhance his Grand National claims with a good run in Grand National Trial at the Lancashire course.

Bob's Worth
© Racehorse Photos

Bob's Worth
Over at Ascot Riverside Boy could make a belated return to action in the Betfair Ascot Chase while his trainer Nicky Henderson will be looking to land the Reynoldstown Chase for a second year running perhaps with Bob's Worth or Mossley, two of his best young novice chasers.

February's action closes with Kempton's Racing Plus Chase on February 25 and any runners from the Paul Nicholls stable should be noted here.

Elsewhere on the Kempton card the aforementioned Nicholls may well let Triumph Hurdle aspirant Dildar make his British debut in the Adonis Hurdle while over at Newcastle on the same day Giles Cross will bid for compensation in the Eider Chase after just missing out in the Welsh National at Chepstow last December.

Malcolm Heyhoe writes weekly horse racing articles for GG.COM-Horse racing betting, information, news, results and free daily tips

Archive January 2012

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