There will be Smiles all round if this 6-1 shot comes in
Temperatures tumble and extra layers are employed, but it is the thought of the Cheltenham Festival that keeps us snug and warm. As I type I look out on thawing snow. The sun shines brighter than ever, making me wince, or is that me trying to work out the 3.00 at Sandown on Saturday?
It is a tricky conundrum, for which I’m inclined to side with El Dancer, who despite conceding years to all of his rivals is in with a real chance on his ratings. His run last time showed he retains the ability and Richard Johnson is booked to ride.
Richard Johnson looks set for a good day. Champagne West, his mount, could come out on top in a peach of a Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase. Many will side with Irish Saint and Sam Twiston-Davies, yet could Gitane Du Berlais lead all the way?
The softer the better for her and her only jumping error was at the last at Limerick in December, when she was still keen. She’ll be a vision to watch over the Railway Fences, and a target to aim at for Champagne West. It’s his turn to pounce, after being vulnerable to Ptit Zig last time.
Another Johnson ride with big claims is Bertie Boru, who ran on late to gain second behind Unioniste at the course last time.
I think the extra seven days break than Theatrical Star may be crucial. Ardkilly Witness was second in the race last year and comes to the race off the back of a success at Kempton.
As I’m going for the old guard with El Dancer, then how about French Opera in the 1.50 at the Esher course?
On his penultimate start he was fourth to Wishfull Thinking in the Peterborough Chase, and on his last two visits to Sandown he has been pitched against Sire De Grugy. Ballygarvey and Ulck Du Lin renew rivalry, and it’s hard to see the form reversing with the latter worse at the weights.
All this deliberating has not unearthed a really strong fancy but then I glanced at the Ffos Las card.
Smiles For Miles has won three of his last four races, most recently getting the better of Russe Blanc at Newbury a few weeks ago. He gave the appearance that today’s distance will suit. He was being stoked along from three out, but then started to travel better as the finishers approached the line. It will be a gruelling event on heavy ground, but I think he’ll cope.
This week has included being at the Greyhound Awards on Sunday and more recently a trip to Manchester, which bore the brunt of the wintry conditions pretty well.
It’s a big weekend for me in the state of Arizona as I rely on New England in the Superbowl, and will probably back Julian Edelmann to be first touchdown scorer. The longest field goal over 44.5 yards also looks tasty as both kickers are able and Most Valuable Player has to be Tom Brady.
Then there is the Phoenix Open, in which my allegiance is with Bubba Watson, the slow-starting Scott Piercy, who needs a shed load of birdies to be competitive, and the solid Ben Martin.
Tanya Stevenson's Saturday tip:
2.40 Ffos Las: Smiles For Miles at 6-1 with Paddy Power
Tanya Stevenson's Saturday pointers:
1.15 Sandown - Betfred 'Keep It Fun' Contenders Hurdle:
Five of the last six favourites have won.
Nicky Henderson has trained three of the last four winners.
1.50 Sandown - Betfred 'Goals Galore' Handicap Chase:
The last five winners came from the first three in the betting.
After a seven year drought for favourites Grey Gold bucked the trend last year.
David Bridgewater has had three winners from his last six runners, and Wyck Hill was second at Chepstow on Friday.
Greywell Boy has won both his runs at Sandown.
From Nicky Henderson’s last 16 runners only four have finished out of the first three, plus he has had five winners.
Chris Pea Green has finished either first or second on all six chase starts.
2.25 Sandown - Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase:
Seven of the last eight favourites have won.
Barry Geraghty has ridden three of the last five winners.
Paul Nicholls has won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase four times in the last nine years.
Since 1983 the two horses older than seven to win were Tarxien aged nine in 2003 and Oscar Whisky last year.
3.00 Sandown - Betfred Mobile Heroes Handicap Hurdle:
The last seven winners carried 10-12 or less to victory.
The last seven winners were no older than nine.
John Ferguson and AP McCoy team up for a 35% strike rate this season.
Harry Fry has a 40% strike rate with his hurdlers since November 1.
2.05 Ffos Las - Betway Welsh Champion Hurdle:
Killian Moore has ridden four winners from his last six Ffos Las rides and he has a 32% strike rate this season when riding for Sophie Leech.
2.40 Ffos Las - Betway West Wales National:
Firebird Flyer has won three of his five races at the course.
Mark Bradstock has had four chase runners at the course and three have won.