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Can Nicholls maintain his run?
11:16am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in Sport
PAUL NICHOLLS enjoyed five fantastic wins with Kauto Star in the William Hill King George VI Chase and while Al Ferof is unlikely to ever match that tally, he can at least get the ball rolling at Kempton.
Al Ferof has 6lb to find with the best of them on official figures but having just his eighth chase start, the eightyear- old appeals as a horse with plenty of untapped potential.
A Grade One winner over two miles as a novice back in 2011, the John Hales-owned grey showed he stays two and a half miles with a comprehensive victory in the ultracompetitive Paddy Power last term.
Injury then saw him sidelined for the rest of last season before he returned to action in a two-mile-three-furlong event at Ascot last month.
We probably did not learn anything new that day as just two runners went to post, but Daryl Jacob let him bowl along in front and the outing should certainly have knocked off any rust ahead of this much tougher assignment.
In any case, French Opera is certainly no mug and has run well since.
Despite having yet to win over three miles under Rules, he was a point-to-point winner over the trip back in 2009 so the distance should present few problems, and the view seems to be that he will handle the ground.
There are a couple of question marks over some of the leading contenders and Al Ferof can exploit any weaknesses at a decent price.
Just A Par can make it a Grade One double for Nicholls and prove an apt winner of the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase, an event better known as the Feltham.
This contest has drawn a pretty disappointing field this year, but Just A Par impressed when dishing out a 14-length beating to the reopposing Third Intention at Newbury last month and a similar performance should see him emerge victorious again.
The New One and My Tent Or Yours face off in the williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle and preference is for the former after an excellent display at Cheltenham earlier in the month.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge defeated established Grade One performer Zarkandar with ease at Prestbury Park and while the runner-up did not enjoy the clearest of passages, The New One found plenty when put under renewed pressure.
My Tent Or Yours finished behind The New One in an Aintree bumper a couple of seasons back and his old rival should prove too smart once again.
The William Hill Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase is the pick of the action at Wetherby and Sydney Paget is taken to build on his recent Haydock success.
Donald McCain’s charge had his optimum conditions on Merseyside as he tackled the three-mile-one-furlong trip on soft ground, and duly held off the challenge of the ill-fated Silver By Nature after demonstrating plenty of stamina.
The handicapper has taken a dim view of that performance and put him up 13lb, a rise which has obviously given McCain second thoughts about a possible Welsh National run at the weekend, and this looks a nice opportunity.
Merlin’s Wish should relish every yard of the three-milefive- furlong trip in the Clugston Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen while staying will also be the name of the game at Wincanton, where Upswing is fancied to shine in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Tara Mist can secure some valuable black type in the StanJames.com Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at Huntingdon.
This Listed heat provides a sterner test than her recent Ludlow win but as a sister to the classy Mickie, she looks a potentially useful tool.
Dunlough Bay can take full of advantage of the easier opportunity in the Bet totequadpot With totepool Beginners’ Chase at Towcester after finding Bear’s Affair too good at Kempton.
Little Jimmy is the choice in Fontwell’s Ward-Thomas Master Removers Handicap Chase, while Oscar Tanner can hit the mark in the Wills Property Services Handicap Hurdle at Sedgefield.
Epic Battle can regain the winning thread in the Coral App Download From The App Store Handicap at Wolverhampton after finishing only fourth at the track last time out.
The winner that day, Marshgate Lane, got a very canny front-running ride and it would be no surprise to Epic Battle get his head back in front in a more suitably run race.
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