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Invictus has Sandown target

Annual Invictus is to be aimed at the European Breeders’ Fund Paddy Power ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final at Sandown.

The six-year-old excelled himself to finish fourth to Soaring Glory in last week’s Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, but trainer Chris Gordon believes he would have been closer had the ground not dried out.

Annual Invictus put in excellent late work to get within five and three-quarter lengths of the winner, suggesting a return to a longer trip will suit him.

His Sandown target in mid-March is over two and a half miles, and Gordon’s charge won over a similar distance when completing a hat-trick on his previous start at Plumpton.

Gordon said: “He ran a blinder at Newbury. If it had been soft/heavy ground I think we’d have been very close.

“It dried up a lot. He finished like an absolute train and wanted a little bit further. With slower ground, he’d have taken some beating.

“He’ll go for the EBF Final at Sandown on the Saturday before the beginning of Cheltenham.

“He’s been a consistent horse all season. I’m looking forward to the EBF Final now.”

The Winchester trainer is also looking forward to Mount Windsor’s return, having been off the track because of a bug in the yard.

Gordon added: “I had a very quiet January because we did have a bug, a respiratory virus, in the yard.

“He was one who was hit very badly with it, but I think he’s two weeks off a run.

“I’ve got him pencilled in for a two-mile-three-furlong hurdle at Sandown on Friday, March 12. I’d imagine he’d head towards that.

“He would have gone for the Betfair if he’d been well.”

Before his absence, Mount Windsor chalked up a hat-trick in the space of a month at Lingfield, Fakenham and Taunton.

Highway One O Two may head to Ffos Las

Grade Two-winning hurdler Highway One O Two may make his first start over fences at Ffos Las next month – provided scans on a recent sinus infection return clear.

The five-year-old, who won the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton on his most recent outing, suffered the setback days after quick ground ruled him out of his intended chasing debut at Newton Abbot last month.

He has since completed a course of antibiotics, and trainer Chris Gordon has earmarked the Burns Pet Nutrition Beginners’ Chase on November 8 as a potential target.

Gordon said: “At Newton Abbot, the ground was too quick – then about 10 days afterwards, he got this sinus infection.  He has had antibiotics for them and he is now off them.

“He will have a scan on Monday to make sure everything is okay – because with a sinus issue, it can blow up quickly again afterwards.

“He has been working, but not as much as he usually would.”

Gordon has not ruled out the possibility of Highway One O Two staying over hurdles for another season, should the sinus problem flare up again.

He added: “If he doesn’t go to Ffos Las we might just stick over hurdles this season.

“If you leave it too late, all of a sudden you have lost the first half of the season, and it would then be a waste going over fences.

McCain impressed as Gaelik claims Fakenham glory

Donald McCain and owner Tim Leslie have enjoyed plenty of big-race success together and Gaelik Coast appears another smart prospect for the pair judged on his debut victory over fences at Fakenham.

Having signed off last season with a brace of novice hurdle wins at Doncaster and Bangor, the six-year-old gelding hit the ground running on his chasing bow in the Greene King IPA Novices’ Chase.

As favourite Mick Pastor crashed out at the last when mounting his challenge, the 5-1 shot demonstrated the best of his battling abilities to overhaul long-time leader Timetochill close to the line before going on to score by a head.

McCain, speaking away from the track, said: “We had him in at Carlisle, but the ground had gone heavy up there. Fakenham isn’t a place I would normally go to, but we wanted to give him a nice education over fences on nice ground.

“He is a nice horse that has got a great attitude and will get a bit further as well. The win was a bonus and the best thing to take out of today was his jumping, which was really good. He is a young horse with a future.

“His first run over hurdles was disappointing, but he wasn’t himself, then he won his next two, but he always looked like he was going to jump a fence.

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“I’m never one to rush them, but we will be governed by the novice chase system, however, there are no grand plans at this stage.”

Chris Gordon can now boast both riding and training a winner at the Norfolk track after Twominutes Turkish (100-30) secured a front-running 15-length success in the Racing To School, “National Hunt” Maiden Hurdle.

The Winchester handler said: “That was my first winner as a trainer here, though I rode a mare called Nethertara to victory at the track 22 years ago in a men’s open point-to-point.

“I spoke to Josh (Moore) this morning and we said to pop him off in front and let him lob along as he jumps very well and the plan has worked well.

“He came to me as an unbroken three-year-old and this is great for the lads that own him, as they have let me be easy on him and their patience has been rewarded.”

A switch back to chasing is on the cards for Glimpse Of Gold, who claimed his second success since joining Sarah Humphrey when landing the Greene King IPA Handicap Hurdle by a length and three-quarters.

Humphrey said of the 9-2 winner: “He has run ever so well since we’ve had him and that was brilliant today as that was off a career high mark. He is just so tough and game.

“His confidence is sky high and it has just grown with every race. We will now go chasing with him. I’ve put him over fences and he jumps well, so he should be well handicapped.”

Harry Reed celebrated his second winner back since returning from a broken arm after steering the Neil Mulholland-trained Master Burbidge (10-1) to glory by a length in the Racing Partnership Selling Handicap Chase.

Reed said: “I broke my left arm at the start of August and had eight weeks off. I’ve still got the metal plates in, but the team at Oaksey House were a big help in getting me back.

“Me and Neil (Mulholland) have done well in the selling races here this season as we won the selling hurdle here at the last meeting, which was my first winner back from injury.

“Master Burbidge is probably not the best of battlers and I needed a good one at the last and luckily I got it.”

Whittington relies on Rouge Vif for Cheltenham double

Rouge Vif will bid to provide Harry Whittington with back-to-back victories in the Bentley Flying Spur Handicap Chase at Cheltenham.

The Wantage trainer saddled stable star Saint Calvados to land the feature event on day one of the season at Prestbury Park 12 months ago, and Rouge Vif lines up with similarly strong claims on Friday.

The six-year-old kept good company as a novice over fences last season, enjoying big-race success in the Kingmaker at Warwick in February before finishing third in the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival on his most recent outing.

Whittington said: “Rouge Vif has done very well during the summer. He’s only a six-year-old, so he was entitled to improve physically, and I think he has – he’s in really fantastic shape.

“I think he’s going into the race in great form. He’s rated 156 – so he has plenty of weight, and there are one or two unexposed horses in there, so it will take a very good performance to win.

“But I don’t think I could have him in better form, and we’re very much looking forward to running him.”

Rouge Vif is one of 13 runners declared for the £48,000 contest, with the weights headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained Dolos.

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On The Slopes rounded off last season with successive wins at Kempton – and trainer Chris Gordon is looking forward to seeing him return to action in the Cotswolds, ground permitting.

He said: “I’m going to walk the track on Friday morning and just make sure the ground is on the easy side of good. If the ground isn’t suitable, we’ll wait for the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter.

“He seems very well at home. What I would say is he’s a horse who looks like a three-mile chaser at home, but on the track we’ve had to keep going back in trip – and I can’t really believe he’s ended up running over two miles.

“He’s a very different horse on the racetrack to what he is at home – it’s like he gets to the racecourse, spins round in a phone box and puts his ‘superhorse’ outfit on!

“Fingers crossed he runs a good race.”

Other contenders include Neil Mulholland’s Scardura, Dan Skelton’s pair of Hatcher and Azzuri and the Gary Moore-trained Beat The Judge.

Proceedings get under way with the Ballymore Novices Hurdle, for which Ask For Glory is likely to be the hot favourite – representing the formidable combination of Nicholls and Harry Cobden.

Solider Of Love bids for a fifth successive win for the same team in the Matchbook Better Way To Bet Novices’ Chase, but he is unlikely to have things all his own way, with two Irish raiders in the Charles Byrnes-trained Doctor Duffy and Gordon Elliott’s Galvin in opposition.

Mossy Fen, who was last seen finishing fifth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival, makes his chasing debut in the same race for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies.

Part owner Carl Hinchy said: “Mossy Fen is in fine form. He’s a point-to-point winner and he has schooled very well.

“We are excited about getting his season under way.”

Fergal O’Brien’s Ask Dillon and Ruth Jefferson’s mare Clondaw Caitlin complete a six-strong field.

Nicky Henderson’s pair of Fix Sun and Hijack and Dr Richard Newland’s Captain Tom Cat are among those worth considering in a fiercely competitive squareintheair.com Handicap Hurdle.

The Catesby Estates Maiden Hurdle is another intriguing affair, with Henderson’s Pipesmoker – who showed high-class form over obstacles last season – taken on by Olly Murphy’s bumper graduate Champagnesuperover.

“He was a smart bumper horse last season, and any more rain they get will definitely be in his favour,” said Murphy.

“He’s going to be a nice horse in time, and we’re hoping he’ll take high rank in the novice-hurdling division this year.

“This looks a nice starting point for him.”

The Two Farmers Crisps Novices’ Chase sees Henderson’s Fusil Raffles lock horns with Nicholls’ Getaway Trump, while the card comes to a close with the Back And Lay At Matchbook Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Gordon excited at prospect of Highway One O Two over fences

Chris Gordon is praying for rain as he plans a chasing campaign for his unbeaten hurdler Highway One O Two.

The five-year-old has won each of his three hurdle starts to date, culminating in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton in February.

Gordon is now trying to schedule a chasing debut for the bay, but is holding out for his preferred soft going conditions.

Though an entry has been made at Market Rasen on Saturday, Gordon is unlikely to run unless the current good ground eases.

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“I’ve put him in at Market Rasen on Saturday, but I don’t think there’s going to be any rain there,” he said.

“He’s a soft ground horse, at Chepstow the other day all the boys were saying it was like a road, but they still call it good. Parts of the chase course they were calling good to firm, but they’re like roads, a lot of these tracks are. We just haven’t had the rain.”

All of Highway One O Two’s winning performances have been produced on ground with either heavy or soft included in the going description, something Gordon is willing to wait for before his seasonal reappearance.

“He’s very good on heavy ground, but he would just want winter ground really,” he said.

“We’re just waiting for the rain, I’ll put him in every two-mile chase or two-mile novice I can and just wait until the ground is just on the easy side.”

Gordon believes Highway One O Two’s fencing bow will be worth the wait, however – and is hopeful he will prove to be even more impressive over the bigger obstacles than he was over hurdles.

“For me and my little yard, he’s the real deal for us,” he said.

“We’re not used to dealing with slightly higher-calibre horses I suppose, but to me he’s very sharp over a fence. He’s got the form and I’d like to think we’ve got a very, very decent horse here.

“I’d like to think he might have the ability to go and run in the Henry VIII at Sandown in the mud, in the Kingmaker in the mud at Warwick. I’d also like to think he’s going to be a better chaser than he is a hurdler, because he’s very fast over a fence.

“He’s a 146 (rated) horse and if he suddenly improves a bit for a fence, then we can go to those nice novices. He’s schooled absolutely fantastically at home and he’s very, very sharp, a real two-miler with the speed he goes over fences.”

Stat of the Day, 14th March 2020

Friday's pick was...

6.00 Southwell : Gorgeous General @ 7/2 BOG 5th at 9/2 (Led, headed over 3f out, weakened inside final furlong) :  another poor show in what has been a wretched week, if I'm honest.

Saturday's pick runs in the...

4.00 Fontwell :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection between 8.00am and 8.15am and I then add a more detailed write-up later within an hour or so of going "live".

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

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Who?

Jimmy @ 3/1 BOG

...in a 7-runner, Class 4, Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 3m2f on soft ground worth £3,671 to the winner...

Why?...

Firstly, trainer Chris Gordon is in decent form right now, aside from a longshot that was expectedly well beaten at Cheltenham this week, his runners have 3 wins and 2 places from 10 starts this month and his name cropped up in a couple of angles I have stored, starting with...

...Chris Gordon + handicap hurdles + Evens to 10/1 + soft or softer + 2016-20 = 22/107 (20.6% SR) for 45.4pts (+42.4% ROI), from which...

  • 18/74 (24.3%) for 56pts (+75.7%) in fields of 7-12 runners
  • 4/10 (40%) for 23.4pts (+234%) at 3m1.5f/3m2f
  • and 3/6 (50%) for 25.32pts (+422%) in fields of 7-12 over 3m1.5f/3m2f

The second angle is a little more general , as Chris' "winter" (ie Oct-April) runners over 3m1f to 3m3f are 14/66 (21.2% SR) for 60.4pts (+91.5% ROI) including the following of relevance today...

  • 14/64 (21.9%) for 62.4pts (+97.5%) in handicaps
  • 14/64 (21.9%) for 62.4pts (+97.5%) with male runners
  • 10/40 (25%) for 27pts (+67.5%) over hurdles
  • 9/29 (31%) for 35.3pts (+121.8%) in races worth less than £4k
  • 6/21 (28.6%) for 32.3pts (+153.8%) with horses rested for 4-9 weeks
  • 6/18 (33.3%) for 15.8pts (+87.6%) during Feb/March
  • and 5/15 (33.3%) for 16.4pts (+109.2%) at Fontwell

...whilst male handicap hurdlers competing for less than £4k after less than 9 weeks rest are 7/18 (38.9% SR) for 26.6pts (+147.7% ROI) and these include...

  • 5/8 (62.5%) for 21.4pts (+267.1%) during Feb/March
  • 3/4 (75%) for 9.4pts (+234.4%) here at Fontwell
  • and 2/2 (100%) for 4.9pts (+245%) here at Fontwell in Feb/March

...giving us...a 1pt win bet on Jimmy @ 3/1 BOG as was available from Bet365, BetVictor, Hills & 888Sport at 8.50am Saturday with plenty of 11/4 BOG elsewhere, but as always please check your BOG status. To see what your preferred bookie is quoting...

...click here for the betting on the 4.00 Fontwell

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!

REMINDER: THERE IS NO STAT OF THE DAY ON SUNDAYS

Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!