The Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle (Saturday 2.25) is a Grade 1 Hurdle Race run at Sandown over a trip just 4 yards short of 2-miles. Its history stretches back to 1976, with four-time King George Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Desert Orchid (1984) being its most famous winner. The last 3 renewals have also been won by high-class individuals in L’ami Serge, Yorkhill and Finian’s Oscar.
3 of the last 10 winners have been trained by Paul Nicholls
Favourites have a decent record having won 6 of the last 10 renewals
8 of the last 10 winners have been aged 5 or 6
Yorkhill and L’ami Serge were the shortest-priced winners in the last 10 years at 4/9
Royal Boy was the longest-priced winner in the last 10 years at 9/1
Promoted to favouritism after the late defection of Claimantakingforgan and, after falling on his hurdle debut, this decent bumper performer has progressed into a decent 146-rated hurdler. In winning at Cheltenham and Chepstow, he also proved he can handle very soft ground and, as his trainer thinks he’s really crying out for 2½ miles, testing conditions should bring his stamina into play. Richard Johnson, who had ridden him on all 3 hurdles starts, maintains the partnership.
Heavily backed this week from 6/1 into 2/1 and, though he officially has 7lb to find with Western Ryder, he is unbeaten in 3 starts for trainer Amy Murphy and jockey Jack Quinlan, looking impressive in winning both his hurdle races by 10-lengths. His trainer thinks he’d prefer better ground, but soft ground didn’t stop him on the one occasion he’s encountered it.
Mont Des Avaloirs
Won his second start in a bumper before falling on his hurdles debut at Wincanton. Made amends by winning a 3-runner race at Aintree afterwards, but jumped left at several obstacles there. Probably won’t get away with jumping left-handed in a Grade 1, but this Paul Nicholls’ trained embryonic chaser can’t be ruled out if he jumps straight.
No 4-year-old has won the Tolworth Hurdle this century, but he does receive 12lb weight-for-age allowance from his rivals, despite only being rated 9lb inferior to the top-rated Western Ryder. He’s also been really impressive in winning his two starts over hurdles and, whilst they came on good and good-to-soft ground, his only win on the flat was on a soft surface.
The Russian Doyen
Finished behind Mont Des Avaloirs in his first run in a bumper, and similar form when third in another bumper afterwards. Improved for hurdle when winning first time over them and, though he has something to find on form, he at least proved he handles soft ground and a right-handed track with that win at Exeter.
Won his only run in bumpers, and has since run three satisfactory races over hurdles to finish second twice and third. That third was behind Western Ryder though, and there seems no obvious reason why he should turn that form around here, be it his stable is in good form.
Western Ryder has the best form in the book, though Kalashnikov is still completely unexposed as he steps-up in class. However, though 4-year-olds don’t have a great record, Sussex Ranger may be the best value. Not only has he been visually impressive in winning both his races, he’s also earned a rating just 9lb short of Western Ryder yet receives 12lb off the likely favourite. His trainer also has a fantastic record at Sandown.
Tip: Sussex Ranger @ 7/1 Bet365, Betfair, PaddyPower