Friday 15 December 2017

Ruby to make way through minefield on Sanctuaire

Julian Muscat

The National Hunt Chase (1.30) has failed to raise its profile since it became a novices' chase as opposed to one for maidens at the start of the season. And Ireland's challenge, usually so full of intriguing possibilities, looks weaker than usual.

In consequence, the race will not take much winning. And the surfeit of dead-wood in the 20-strong field leaves the race at the mercy of a handful of horses. Foremost among them is Mobaasher, whose trainer, Venetia Williams, has had this race in mind for him all season.

Williams has been biding her time with the selection, whose requirement for good ground was met only for his last start. And he duly obliged from an opponent he'd played second fiddle to on softer ground the previous month.

A talented staying hurdler, Mobaasher should improve for tackling this four-mile trip for the first time. He isn't the most resolute, but that hasn't stopped any number of similar types winning this curio of a contest.

Dark horses demand respect in any of the handicaps, and few come any darker than Sanctuaire in the Fred Winter Novices' Handicap Hurdle (4.40). Although this looks a potential minefield, an interest is demanded by the way Paul Nicholls has brought the selection into the race.

Sanctuaire had two runs over hurdles at Auteuil before he transferred to the Somerset trainer, who only loosed him for the first time at Taunton last month. Ruby Walsh travelled over to ride Sanctuaire and the combination obliged with ease. Walsh again takes the reins here at the expense of the Mullins-trained Doctor Deejay. The implication is clear.

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