Jockey Patrick Cowley should be celebrating the biggest win of his career to date with Flemcara in the Betfred Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown.
The duo have clearly struck up an excellent rapport this term, winning each of their last three starts with that good run of form also coinciding with a switch to handicap class from novice events.
Flemcara has officially improved 27lb from that first win at Worcester in November to now and while this Grade Three heat is another step up, Emma Lavelle’s charge still looks to be on the upgrade and Cowley’s 7lb claim is very handy indeed.
Grade One honours are up for grabs in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and Fountains Windfall can surprise a couple of better-fancied rivals. Anthony Honeyball’s charge looked sure to take a hand in the finish of a Kempton Grade One on Boxing Day, only to crash out at the fourth-last fence – his second fall on the bounce after tipping up at Newbury the time before.
He has since safely negotiated his way around at Kempton to score as an odds-on favourite and he barely touched a twig on that occasion, so perhaps his ill fortune has now left him and his confidence should be riding high.
It will be a huge shock if Buveur D’Air gets turned over in the Betfred “Supports Jack Berry House” Contenders Hurdle, but given his prohibitive price, this is a race to merely watch rather than take an active interest. His fellow Nicky Henderson inmate, Terrefort, can book his Festival ticket with victory in the totesport.com Towton Novices’ Chase at Towcester.
The Seven Barrows handler takes a steep jump in company with this five-year-old following a 10-length win on his British debut at Huntingdon last month, but given he previously raced in France, he has oodles of experience under his belt already.
Musselburgh kicks off its two-day Festival trials meeting and Paul Nicholls can take advantage of the potentially better ground with Copain De Classe in the bet365 Scottish Champion Chase while Brahms De Clermont can bring up a hat-trick in the bet365 Scottish County Hurdle.
On a jam-packed day, Victory Bond can steal a share of the limelight by winning Lingfield’s Betway Winter Derby Trial.
William Haggas’ runner was a clear-cut winner of a conditions event at Wolverhampton last month and looks to be a horse who is fast improving in this sphere.
Leopardstown is really the place to be for jumps fans this weekend as it stages the inaugural two-day Dublin Racing Festival.
The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle is the key event on day one and Faugheen would still be the one to beat if he turns up in anywhere near his best form.
Willie Mullins’ charge has questions to answer following his Christmas flop but the stable vibes had been positive of late and hopefully that was only a minor aberration.
Mullins should also be on the mark with Footpad in the Irish Arkle as he has barely put a foot wrong in two chase outings, while Yorkhill is of plenty of interest dropped back to two and a furlong.
He is a far-from-straightforward performer but should appreciate this different challenge and feel the benefit of his albeit disappointing return over three miles at Christmas.
TURF TALK TIPS
KEMPTON: 5.45 Divine Call, 6.15 Night Castle, 6.45 Bungee Jump, 7.15 Windsor Cross, 7.45 Humbert, 8.15 Sky Marshal.
LINGFIELD: 12.50 El Borracho, 1.25 Jack Bear, 2.00 Kachy, 2.35 You’re Cool, 3.05 Victory Bond (treble), 3.40 Yamuna River, 4.15 Gin And Tonic.
MUSSELBURGH: 12.55 Henry’s Joy, 1.30 Keeper Hill, 2.05 Brahms De Clermont, 2.45 Copain De Classe, 3.15 Ballymalin, 3.45 Kalaniti, 4.20 Wonderful Charm.
SANDOWN: 12.40 Countister, 1.15 Top Gamble, 1.50 Buveur D’Air, 2.25 Fountains Windfall (next best), 3.00 FLEMCARA (NAP), 3.35 Cogry, 4.10 Just So Cool.
WETHERBY: 1.00 Northern Beau, 1.35 Mercian Prince, 2.10 Just Your Type, 2.40 Terrefort, 3.20 King Of Fashion, 3.55 Top Wood, 4.30 Black Pirate.