You can look at the Tingle Creek and say it is an open race, but personally I think a fit and fresh Un De Sceaux will be very hard to beat at Sandown.
It is obviously not ideal that he won’t have an easy lead with Ar Mad in the field – and he has fallen first time out in the last two seasons – but he brushed them off in a similarly small field at Ascot last season when push came to shove and I can see the same happening again here.
He would like it softer, too, I suppose, but when the frost covers are taken off it tends to ride quite dead and I think that will be the case at Sandown, where there will probably be plenty of moisture in the ground.
If it is, then that will play into the hands of Willie’s horse and Sire De Grugy, who I thought was sensational when winning off a mark of 160 at Ascot and who has already won this race twice, and I think he will give Un De Sceaux most to do.
Clearly, I know God’s Own very well but he would prefer genuinely good ground.
Here are my thoughts on my Chepstow rides on Saturday:
Won three times in points but has had a mixed record in novice chases so far, falling twice. But he doesn’t look to be on a bad mark on his form when he has completed, and this trip on decent ground looks fine for him.
Samuel Mael Duin
He showed little in two bumpers when trained by David Bridgwater a couple of seasons ago, but he is with Colin now and perhaps a bit of time and a change of scenery will see him return a much better horse. He is a half-brother to Fergal Mael Duin, who runs later in the card and won for the same owners on his first start for the yard at Fontwell in October.
He won three races over hurdles earlier in the year but he didn’t look to take to fences on his chasing debut over 3m1f at Aintree a couple of months. But he ran much better when second over a shorter trip at Bangor last time, though making mistakes again, and he has an each-way chance here.
He is another horse of Colin’s that has been off for a long while, presumably with a problem. He has done all his winning with plenty of dig in the ground, including in heavy ground here, so he probably would ideally like a fair bit of rain. He returns on what looks like a fair mark, though – he has been dropped 5lb since his last run – and it is all about how much ability he retains and how straight he is. Neither of which I know at the moment, sorry. He was also entered in the handicap chase on this card, but Colin has decided to start him back over hurdles.
Fergal Mael Duin
He responded well to my urgings when winning on his debut for Colin over 2m5f at Fontwell in October and he ran another good race when second off a 5lb higher mark over 3m3f at that track last time. He is running off a career-high mark here in what is arguably a deeper race, but he looks to be improving and clearly stays this trip well.
I don’t know anything about him, to be honest, but Machiato won first time up for Colin in a bumper at Newton Abbot in the summer and hopefully this Kayf Tara newcomer has ability, too. These Chepstow bumpers can take a lot of winning, though.
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