Fab February Warmers
The bell sounds for February's jumps action with the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las on February 2. Most racing at the Welsh venue is of a humdrum nature but this is the one decent race that they hold all year.
Twelve months ago Oscar Whisky landed the spoils at very short odds but in his absence a more open race for increased prize money should be on the cards for the 2013 renewal. Over at Sandown on the same day the best of the young novice chasers will be action in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase and this grade one chase over an extended two and a half miles is always won by a horse that is worth following.
This time around Captain Conan is sure to land the spoils and continue Nicky Henderson's grand run of Saturday results. In a normal year, Henderson's charge would be good enough to win an Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival but with would-be superstar and stable companion Simonsig holding that race by the throat, Captain Conan can take the Scilly Isles Chase before going on to success in the Jewson Chase at the festival in March.
A top three finish in a recent start is a pre-requisite for any likely winner of the Heroes Handicap Hurdle on the same Sandown card, and punters should pay particular attention to any runner from the Paul Nicholls stable because the yard has enjoyed three winners of this decent prize in the last decade.
Over at Wetherby the Towton Novices' Chase on the same day offers the staying stars of tomorrow the opportunity to gain more experience around Wetherby's tough jumps course. Jonjo O'Neill often sends one of his stronger novices to the West Yorkshire venue and any runner he turns out should be noted.
February 9 is a key date in any punter's planning as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned because this is a day that often throws up a powerful clue or two regarding the outcome of some of the championship races at the following month's Prestbury Park spectacular.
The big betting race on the Newbury card is the excellent Betfair Hurdle, one of the very best handicap hurdles staged all season. Class is always a crucial factor in determining the winner and Nicky Henderson's better hurdlers tend to posses that particular quality in abundance.
This time around Henderson's Cash and Go could well make up for an unfortunate fall in the Ladbroke Hurdle last time. The former Irish-trained hurdler was a warm order for the aforementioned Ascot event and will be hard to beat at Newbury while Henderson also has a huge fly in the ointment courtesy of My Tent Or Yours should he be declared a definite runner nearer the time.
The following weekend - February 16 - sees Ascot stage the Betfair Ascot Chase, a race that was landed twelve months ago by Riverside Theatre on his seasonal bow. It would be no surprise to see the Nicky Henderson-trained chaser turn out again for a second crack at this valuable contest.
Philip Hobbs will be represented by his King George Chase runner-up, Captain Chris, and he may well be the one to beat. Ascot also plays host to the Reynoldstown Chase and this is often a race that shakes up the ante-post market for the RSA Chase at the next month's Cheltenham Festival.
Over at Wincanton Zarkandar may well put his Champion Hurdle aspirations on the line in the Kingwell Hurdle where he could again come up against Rock On Ruby, the reigning Champion Hurdler. The former is a specialist at the West Country track and could have the latter's measure.
February's key jumps action closes with Kempton's February 23 fixture with the Kempton Chase occupying pride of place. This three mile handicap has long been the target of Champion Court and Wyck Hill, and both horses could take plenty of beating while in the graded Adonis Hurdle watch out for Vasco Du Ronceray trying to revive his Triumph Hurdle claims in a race that has often exerted a positive influence on the outcome of the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Malcolm Heyhoe writes weekly horse racing articles for GG.COM-Horse racing betting, information, news, results and free daily tips
Archive Jan 2013
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