Big Race Preview with The Jumps Punter

This week’s feature race is the Grade One Tolworth Novice Hurdle at Sandown run over a distance of 1m 7f 216y. While we only have a small field this looks to be an exciting race with four of the six runners winning last time out.

At the time of writing, Capitaine heads the market which makes sense given that he is the only one in the line up to run in and win a graded hurdle race, but that doesn’t mean to say the rest of the field aren’t up to graded company. The majority of runners have only had one or two outings over hurdles and put up some eye catching performances and now look ready to step up into graded company.

I think there is no better place to start than taking a look at the market leader Capitaine who won last time out at Ascot in a grade 2 contest. There was no early pace on so his jockey decided to make the running shortly after the tapes rose and he was able to dictate the pace of the race with the rest of the field seemingly happy to sit off him and let him get on with things. To his credit when they did try and close on him he found plenty and pulled clear late on. I do feel he was given a rather soft lead though and had the race run to suit, my concern with him is when he can’t get his own way in front or different riding tactics are used we seem to see a different side to this horse. At Haydock connections decided to hold him up and when he came to make ground on the horse in front he looked rather green and he did tend to hold his head a little high he didn’t appear all that straightforward. I can’t really see him getting this race run to suit and I feel the lack of experience he showed at Haydock may surface again.

So where do we look bar the favourite?

Charlemar’s form from his Aintree win hasn’t worked out very well at all and that has to be a concern. He has done nothing wrong in two starts over hurdles and he deserves to take his chance here but others appeal more.

Chalonnial is from a top stable but I wasn’t overly impressed with the way he won at Bangor on his hurdles debut, that form has yet to be tested. It was his first start of the season and he is entitled to have come on plenty for the run. But there are others in the line up that have been visually more impressive at this stage of their career than him.

Global Stage chased home a fancied horse of Nicky Henderson’s in a bumper at Haydock back in November. The winner has since come out and been beaten in a listed bumper at Ascot. I’m surprised connections have switched Global Stage to hurdles so soon as I felt there was definitely a bumper to be won with him. Gibbes Bay who was made favourite for the Haydock bumper race, and finished 14 3/4 lengths behind Global Stage, came out next time and was beaten 34 lengths by Finian’s Oscar. On that piece of form Global Stage has quite a bit to do on his first start over hurdles to turn that form around. He has ran four times in Point To Points falling twice and finishing second and fourth on both other occasions. So he shouldn’t lack experience but the form link mentioned above leaves him with plenty to find with Finian’s Oscar involved.

Celestial Path has been gelded since arriving off the flat and has been well schooled ahead of his debut under rules. The trainer stated that they were going to school him Friday morning and if all went well he would be entered. Seeing as he has been declared connections must be more than happy with how he has been schooling at home. It’s still a big ask to win a grade one first time out over hurdles, though. He was a smart horse on the flat having won a listed race at Haydock on his second start of his career. He has, however, never raced further than 1m 1f so we can’t be totally sure that he will stay. We can’t however, take away the ability that he showed on the level and was rated as high as 110 at one stage. He is certainly an interesting runner but there are a few question marks surrounding whether he will stay the trip and whether he will take to hurdles. But looking at his price and the ability he showed on the flat then his current price is more than fair and I’ve seen far worse 16/1 shots than him.

Finian’s Oscar ran out an easy winner at Hereford on his first start over hurdles. The form from that race has yet to be tested but he could only beat what was put in front of him and he did so in eye catching fashion. He won over 2m 5f that day but is closely related to Finian’s Rainbow who finished second in an Arkle before going on to win a Champion Chase so you would hope the drop back to 2m wouldn’t inconvenience him too much. The attitude he showed at Hereford for such a young horse will hold him in good stead in this company. Connections also have Pingshou who has been racing in Novice Hurdles and has shown fair form. He stepped up in trip on New Years Day at Cheltenham where he travelled well but didn’t appear to stay. Given that Finian’s Oscar came out first time and won over 2m 5f I’d have thought it would have made sense to have entered him up on New Years Day over a trip that he stayed well last time. While I don’t feel Pingshou had shown enough to win this race, I’m thinking along the lines that Finian’s Oscar must be showing a decent level of ability at home to firstly drop him in trip, and secondly enter him at Grade One level. Connections will have a fair idea of the level of his ability with Pingshou a good bench mark.

So what’s the verdict?

Capitaine brings graded winning form to this race and while he has his quirks he still looks a talented young horse. Whether at this stage of his career he can for fill is full potential I’m not overly sure but in another year or two once he has grown up mentally he looks to have a bright future ahead of him. Celestial Path is another interesting runner on his hurdles debut if he stays the trip and takes to hurdles then I’m sure his trainer can transfer the ability he showed on the flat to hurdles.

For me, Finian’s Oscar gets the nod. I felt he jumped travelled and showed a really good attitude at Hereford and given the way he pulled clear late on he looked a horse that would have no problem stepping into graded company. Given the current form of his trainer in the big races this season I certainly wouldn’t rule out him adding another big race win to his impress haul already this season.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this week’s blog. Good luck with whatever you decide to back.

The Jumps Punter

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