In the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2.25) at Sandown on Friday, this year’s winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, Ballyandy, has finished behind last year’s winner, Moon Racer, on both attempts over hurdles, but trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies rates him ‘as nice as we’ve ever had’. The Kayf Tara gelding should be fighting fit this time and, with the step up to 2 miles 4 furlongs likely to play to his strengths, he can start to fulfil his not inconsiderable potential over obstacles. He’s won on good, good to soft and heavy going, so should run his race whatever the weather in Esher and, with Sam Twiston-Davies elsewhere, can provide a high-profile winner for Jamie Bargary.
Selection: Sandown 2.25 Ballyandy to win
The Betway Sprint Handicap (1.25) at Newcastle on Thursday features the return of Mullionheir, who has been absent since finishing twentieth of 24, beaten 13½ lengths, behind Librisa Breeze in the Gigaset International Stakes at Ascot in July. John Best’s 4-year-old was highly progressive last season, winning five times and climbing 39lb in the weights.
Clearly, he’s had his problems, but is only 2lb higher in the weights than when fourth of 17, beaten 2½ lengths, behind subsequent Duke Of York Stakes winner Magical Memory over 6 furlongs on the July Course at Newmarket last summer and would have an obvious chance if able to reproduce that form. An absence of 117 days is a worry, but he drops into 0-95 company for the first time since winning over 7 furlongs at Newbury last August. His ability to act on Tapeta is a complete unknown but, even so, he looks worth chancing on his debut on the surface.
Selection: Newcastle 1.25 Mullionheir to win
George Bowen has had a disappointing season, failing to trouble the judge on all ten starts, but only went down three necks and a head when fifth of 21 over 6 furlongs on Town Moor last month and looks worth another try over an extra furlong. He’d previously run well, again over 6 furlongs, in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York, despite missing the break and being hampered with a furlong to run, so he may be able to round off the season with a win in the Betfred “Supports Jack Berry House” Handicap (1.50) at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Dark Angel gelding attempted 7 furlongs four times last season, without success, but has suggested more than once in recent months that a stiffer test of stamina might show him in better light. He races off the same handicap mark as when winning over the testing 6 furlongs at the Curragh last September and has winning form on good to firm going, not to mention being the choice of stable jockey Tony Hamilton, so he actually has quite a lot going for him.
Selection: Doncaster 1.50 George Bowen to win