Our resident tipster is getting excited over this Paul Nicholls-trained runner.
Nigel Twiston-Davies has a decent record with horses returning from a layoff and it could therefore be worth taking a chance on the fitness of his AFRICAN GOLD, who is having his first start for 656 days in this afternoon’s 2m3f handicap chase at Stratford (due off 3.40pm).
The seven-year-old has been sidelined with injury since pulling up in a handicap hurdle at Warwick in January 2014, but he returns on what looks like a potentially lenient chase mark of 133 and he was by far the best of these over hurdles. A winner of a bumper here on his racecourse debut, he proceeded to rack up four wins in his novice season and confirmed himself a high-class sort when chasing home At Fishers Cross in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, before finishing fifth in a Grade 1 Liverpool Hurdle behind Solwhit.
A big, imposing sort, he was always going to be a better chaser and it was therefore disappointing to see him finish a well beaten fourth as favourite on his chasing bow at Cheltenham in the autumn of 2013, though with hindsight that was a tough introduction and the run would have been needed. Sent off as 1/2 market leader on his next start at Uttoxeter, he was going as well as anything when falling three out and would surely have won had he stayed up. You can ignore his last run at Warwick as the ground was bottomless and he’s always looked happier on a decent surface.
Today’s “good to soft” should be perfect for him and, while he’s conceding weight to some good sorts, he does have a touch of class and has presumably schooled well enough over the larger obstacles to be pitched into handicap company on his return. With his stable in excellent form and with Sam Twiston-Davies booked to do the steering, he looks worth a punt, even though most bookmakers are taking few chances by offering him at just 5/1 – so much for the forecast 10/1!
I was excited over the British debut of Paul Nicholls’ MR MIX at Plumpton earlier last week, only for him to be scratched on the morning of the race, presumably due to the ground. In the hope the ground will be considered ‘safe’ enough for him this afternoon, I’m going to put him up as the likely winner of the closing “national hunt” novices’ hurdle (4.10pm), with a couple of well-regarded rivals helping to make the market.
Third on his debut in a Listed Hurdle at Auteuil in September 2014, he was subsequently snapped up by his current connections for a considerable sum no doubt and they will be hoping he can live up to the likes of Irish Saint, Ptit Zig and Saphir Du Rheu – all purchased from the same Auteuil race. He didn’t appear on a British racecourse last season as he wasn’t considered ready and that may have been a blessing as these French imports can take some time to acclimatise. The vibes coming out of his stable this autumn have been positive and, with Nicholls very much amongst the winners of late, the four-year-old can make a winning debut.
I’m hopeful we can back him at a decent price too due to the presence of Kim Bailey’s Charbel (forecast at 6/5), who won a Listed bumper at Listowel when trained in Ireland, before finishing fourth in a Grade 1 bumper at the Punchestown Festival behind Bellshill. He’s undoubtedly exciting and he will win races this season, but this sharp 2m may not be ideal for him and some of the stable runners have been needing their opening run. Jonjo O’Neill unleashes another Irish import, Set In My Ways, and he too looks to have a bright future, but is unlikely to be fully wound up today.