Fiddler bids to step up against Sporting John

Robbie Power expects Fiddlerontheroof to strip fitter than for his seasonal debut when he takes on Sporting John in what looks sure to be an informative Racing TV HD On Sky 426 Beginners’ Chase at Exeter.

Fiddlerontheroof was a Grade One winner last season in the Tolworth Hurdle, but Colin Tizzard wasted no time in sending him over fences after he disappointed at the Cheltenham Festival.

He jumped well in the main when beaten by If The Cap Fits on his chasing debut at Ffos Las – but like many from the yard in the early stages of the campaign, Power feels sure he will be a different proposition this time around.

“You like to think he’d have come forward a good bit for his first run,” said the jockey.

“Touch wood, he jumped very well at Ffos Las and ran with plenty of promise, but our horses have been coming forward for a run this season.

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“It’s early in the season, and most have been needing a run. But there were plenty of positives at Ffos Las, so I’m looking forward to getting back on him.

“Good to soft ground is fine for him, but any rain that falls between now and the race will be in his favour.

“This is when the season really gets going – it’s a big weekend this weekend, so hopefully we can kick on from here.”

Philip Hobbs’ Sporting John created a huge impression in winning his first three over timber last season, before finishing seventh in the Ballymore at Cheltenham behind Envoi Allen.

Hobbs has always viewed him as a chaser, though, and he did have a minor excuse for his Cheltenham display.

Richard Johnson replaces the now-retired Barry Geraghty in the saddle on Wednesday.

Sporting John was impressive at Ascot last season
Sporting John was impressive at Ascot last season (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“His work has been going very well, and he has schooled well, so we are very happy with him,” said Hobbs.

“Colin Tizzard’s horse is obviously very good as well, but we will see how we get on.

“He had a fantastic campaign until Cheltenham, then he disappointed. He was slightly lame on a hind leg straight after the race, although it was okay in a few hours. Quite what that was we don’t know, but he has been fine since.

“We’ve always liked him from day one – he won easily at Exeter and he continued to do so until Cheltenham. Even before he got to the racecourse, he was a good-looking horse that worked and schooled well.

“Chasing should definitely be his job, so that was very much the plan to go that route. I think he has plenty of speed for shorter trips, but he could go further, and it is all flexible at the moment.

“He has had plenty of experience around there – and a good, galloping track suits him well. We were happy with his work, so an away day wasn’t necessary.”

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