Sister Sibyl looks set for Warwick success
THE jumps season comes to an end at Sandown Park on Saturday, with Nicky Henderson assured of his second successive trainers’ championship and Richard Johnson in line to be crowned top jockey for the third season running, writes David Hucker.
As well as amassing most prize money, Henderson has been operating at a 27 per cent strike rate and had entered eight horses for Warwick’s meeting on Thursday. He runs just two on what has become an eight-race card following dividing of the bumper.
Feature race of the afternoon is the fourth, the £25,000 UBS Wealth Management Novices' Handicap Chase over two miles, for which the weights are headed by Tree Of Liberty, who seems to have taken on a new lease of life since transferring to the Herefordshire stable of Kerry Lee at the end of last year.
He has to give 3lbs and more to the rest of the field, including Tommy Silver, part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, who is one of just two runners on the card for trainer Paul Nicholls.
His stable has been operating at a 20 per cent strike rate over the last two weeks, but some short-priced runners have been beaten in that time, including a 2-5 shot at Newton Abbot on Monday.
It may pay to go right to the bottom of the weights where Sister Sibyl has a 7lb penalty for her wide-margin win at Cheltenham last week and looks to have a good chance of a quick follow-up under Tom O’Brien.
Eighteen line up in the opening 188Bet Noel Fehily Punchestown Blog Maiden Hurdle over two miles and five furlongs, due off at 1.40pm, and owner Trevor Hemmings will be doubly-represented.
Braddan Head, is trained by Charlie Longsdon, who sent out the winner last year, and Mystical Clouds, who boasts the better form, comes from the Alan King yard.
Ticket To Ride has been beaten a long way on both his chasing starts, but has been found a good opportunity to gain his first win under Rules for trainer Polly Gundry in the Download The App At 118Bet Novices' Handicap Chase.
He may have to settle for a place, however, behind Roll TheDough who is having his second run since a wind operation and represents the in-form Philip Hobbs stable.
Next up is the Best Odds Guaranteed At 118 Bet Handicap Hurdle in which Rhaegar, a winner of a bumper over the course last May, could step up on his last run at Wetherby, although the consistent Awake At Midnight might turn out to be another winner for the Hobbs/Johnson combination.
The winning run of Creswell Legend came to an end at Musselburgh in February, since when he has been given a break by trainer Kim Bailey.
He is a horse who runs well when fresh and can return after his absence to land the Robert Walters Handicap Hurdle, although there are plenty of dangers lurking amongst his 12 opponents.
Longest race on the card is the Punchestown Betting At 188Bet Handicap Chase over three miles and five furlongs in which Phangio, a wide-margin winner at Chepstow a year ago, looks to be back on a winning mark for trainer Matt Sheppard and his jockey son Stan.
He had the opportunity to return to the Welsh course on Friday, but has been declared here instead and looks to have Copperfacejack, trained at Mollington by Paul Webber, to beat.
With 80 entries, the concluding Europa League Betting at 188Bet Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race has been split into two, with the maximum allowed 18 runners in each division.
Henderson runs Morning Vicar, who weakened two furlongs out on his last run at Newbury, having won over the course previously, in the first division and Ganache, another running in the colours of Trevor Hemmings and third on his only run at Kempton Park, in the second.