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Victor Chandler writes . . .
4:03pm Friday 4th January 2013 in Sport
Sandown stage a cracking card today with the Grade1 32Red sponsored Tolworth Hurdle the feature.
Poet looked very good when winning his maiden at Newbury, revelling in the soft ground as he had done for a number of years on the Flat. This is a step up in grade on a track where he put up one of his best performances of his flat career when running the brilliant Workforce to a length in the Brigadier Gerard back in 2011.
He is a fascinating contender as is the unbeaten Pendra who also steps up in class, having comfortably landed two Plumpton novice hurdles earlier in the season; he looks a potential star over fences, probably over further, and is very much one to keep on the right side of going forward.
The selection, however, is Melodic Rendezvous (2.25) runner-up in the Punchestown Festival Bumper to Champagne Agent and who got off the mark over timber last month when comfortably scoring at Cheltenham. The selection should get a good lead from the perennial front-runner Poet and is taken to land a top-class renewal of this prestigious event.
In the absence of Marshal Zhukov (keep on that right side of him when he reappears) William's Wishes (1.50), who is reported to be heading for the Victor Chandler Chase later in the month if successful, is likely to be a warm order for the 2m Handicap Chase.
The form of his Ascot win back in November has been franked by the excellent run of runner up Champion Court in the King George on Boxing Day and although I always felt the horse needed better ground he coped well enough at Ascot and can follow up.
Domtaline is another who wants better ground and look out for him in something like the Grand Annual at the Festival in March.
Connections confirmed on Thursday morning that Alfie Spinner (3.40) would take his chance at Sandown and bypass the Coral Welsh Grand National for which he had been well supported in recent weeks. The booking of Noel Fehily catches the eye and I have always felt there was a big handicap in the horse this winter. He is a cracking jumper despite the U next to his name when he lost his jockey in the Hennessy last time.
For Two (1.15) was a winner in bad ground in France and can give away the weight in the Juvenile hurdle. Very much a chaser in the making he might be a likely candidate for something like the Fred Winter going forward.
At Chepstow, Teaforthree (3.20) looks well handicapped in the Welsh National but all the fancy prices have gone and he is currently 3/1 at BetVictor. The winner of the Festival 4m last year he ran very well in the Hennessy and is 3lb lower on Saturday. It will be disappointing if he didn't go very close with the Aintree National the logical progression if he runs a big race.
I am looking forward to seeing Champagne Fever (1.35) (currently 7/1 Non Runner Free Bet for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle at BetVictor) stepped up in trip to 2m 4f for the first time at Naas tomorrow.
Last year's Champion Bumper winner was no match for Jezki over the minimum trip last time but that horse has followed up in Grade 1 company and I still think Champagne Fever is another potential star from the all-conquering Willie Mullins yard.