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Victor Chandler writes...
6:00pm Friday 7th February 2014 in Sport
Newbury's Super Saturday card must pass a precautionary inspection at 7am, but clerk of the course Richard Osgood gave an upbeat bulletin on Friday - and let's hope the rains allow the meeting to go ahead.
Paul Nicholls' has saddled the winner of the opening novices' hurdle three times in the last decade and Calipto (1.20) can maintain their excellent record in the race despite the juvenile taking on older horses.
The selection scored over c&d on his British debut having finished runner-up in a listed contest on debut in his native France.
Justification won twice on the level for Aidan O'Brien and has joined Gary Moore since finishing third at Thurles back in November. He went well enough on heavy ground on the Flat and is a fascinating contender for a yard who look as if they may move up another level in the months to come.
Walkon is one of five entered for the Denman chase and the owner is praying the race will be on as he has to finish in the first four to be eligible for the Crabbie's Grand National.
The weights will be announced in London on Tuesday and the Alan King runner won't be eligible if he doesn't finish in the first four in this race over three miles, despite the fact that he showed his aptitude for the National fences when runner up at Aintree in the Topham last spring.
Paul Nicholls' Al Ferof is the 6/4 favourite having finished third in the King George last time although I'm not convinced he's an out and out stayer and I have thrown a few bob at Harry Topper (3/1 BetVictor) who will love the forecast heavy ground.
He would be something to bet on if you could guarantee he would jump fluently but his fencing has been poor so far this term.
If he gets his jumping together (and there are two fences omitted per circuit because of the testing ground) he can outstay his rivals with Venetia Williams' Katenko considered a bigger danger than the Nicholls favourite.
The Game Spirit is a cracker with the novice Dodging Bullets putting his Arkle credentials on the line. He is likely to go off a very short price and Module (3.00) in receipt of 3lbs might be the answer for Tom George. The selection really should have won the BetVictor Haldon Gold Cup earlier in the season over this trip and thrashed Colour Squadron on his only start at Newbury.
I still have nightmares about Montbazon getting chinned in the Aintree Bumper of three years ago and it is great to see him back on track after a near two year absence in the big betting race of the day the Betfair Hurdle.
He is likely to be found out by the heavy ground on his reappearance but is certainly one to consider on better ground in the spring.
When Montbazon made his racecourse debut he was beaten by Cheltenian (3.35) at Kempton and the latter gets the nod despite reservations about the ground. The excellent Philip Hobbs has never saddled the winner of this valuable event and at 9/1 (1/4 odds first 4) with BetVictor he can reward each way support.
The Irish Hennessy is the Grade c1 Feature on a magnificent card at Leopardstown on Sunday and I think Tidal Bay (3.50) can be a first British winner of the race since The Listener for Sue and Robert Alner back in 2008. The selection was below par at Haydock on his penultimate start but ran a cracker in the Welsh National last time and can add another big race to his remarkable CV.
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