Mister Hyde can stay on the rise
Lush Life will push for favouritism in this afternoon's Totescoop6 Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown, but Baracouda is the only horse to carry more than 11st to victory in this race over the past 10 years so Nicky Henderson's charge has it all to do off a net weight of 11st 3lb.
Paul Nicholls, responsible for three of the last four winners of the race, is represented solely by Prince Tom in the 21-strong field. A winner at Taunton last time out in November, Ian Popham's mount hasn't been done any favours by the handicapper, with 13lbs added to his lot now.
Alfie Spinner, at a general 8/1, holds more appeal, particularly for a place. A model of consistency, the Nick Williams-trained gelding was fourth in the novices' handicap final at the course last March and he has performed well on both starts this term.
Most recently, he kept on for second behind Mobaasher at Warwick. The winner went on to run respectably in fourth when upped in class behind Grands Crus last Saturday, so that form looks relatively solid.
Preferred for the win, though, is Mister Hyde. Three subdued outings over flights last year kept Jonjo O'Neill's charge well under the radar, but it was no surprise to see him easily justify favouritism off a mark off 109 on his handicap debut in November.
Although clearly a horse to keep on side of, he subsequently showed the effects of a third run in three weeks when well beaten into sixth by Grands Crus. Of course, that one has since gone on to great things and Mister Hyde benefited from a near two-month break to win as he liked back in novice company at Plumpton on January 2.
There is little doubt that the Beneficial six-year-old, with just seven runs to his name, can still improve. Significantly, and notwithstanding the fact that they both ran below par, it is also of note that he finished 20 lengths in front of Lush Life when they met off the same terms as they do today behind Grands Crus at Cheltenham. At 6/1, and with just 10st 8lb to carry, Mister Hyde is an appealing proposition.
The Grade One novice chase is undoubtedly the pick of the day's quality action. Nine are set to go to post in this, including the somewhat disappointing Reve De Sivola, which is surely better than his lifeless effort at Cheltenham last time.
Captain Chris will also be better now that he gets some good ground but Nadiya De La Vega is the horse to beat. Nicky Henderson's French import hacked up on her fencing debut under today's rider Andrew Tinkler at Warwick in November, before showing plenty courage to recover from a bad mistake to win at Kempton last month.
This is a huge step up but, at just five, she should continue to progress. Crucially, Nadiya De La Vega receives 10lbs from each of her opponents, and there might not be one of them good enough to concede that sort of weight to her.
One that is fancied to give weight away is Take The Breeze in the Masters Handicap Chase. Paul Nicholls' eight-year-old must give seven pounds or more all round, but there is very little to recommend any of his 10 rivals.
Take The Breeze, on the other hand, was a smart novice last term, winning three times and finishing third behind Burton Port in a Grade Two at Aintree. While he hasn't run since finishing a good second to Massini's Maguire on his reappearance at Ascot in October, one of Nicholls' will hardly want for fitness, so he should be hard to beat.
Further west at Ffos Las, Eugene O'Sullivan's Giveabobback is interesting in the maiden hurdle.
A point-to-point winner in December, Paul Moloney's mount should feature prominently on his hurdle debut in a race that lacks strength in depth.
Best bet: Take The Breeze