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Hawkes Point can swoop to long-odds victory at Warwick

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Trainer Paul Nicholls

Trainer Paul Nicholls

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Trainer Paul Nicholls

THE late British cabinet minister and part-time racing tipster Robin Cook once said that if George Bush and Jacques Chirac had a tipping column each, the world would be a safer place.

As Cook knew himself, anyone who tips horses in a public forum can't remain full of self-importance for very long, and a string of losers will quickly bring any ego-trip to a swift end.

A good dose of humility, he reckoned, was good for the soul and I must admit, I was taken down a peg or two myself last week, having tipped Jolly's Cracked It to win the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.

As the race time approached, I was quietly sipping a nice pint of stout in the local when one regular came up to me brandishing a copy of the Irish Independent asking me to justify why I tipped Harry Fry's six-year-old, which he didn't rate at all. A light-hearted argument involving most of the bar ensued and I put forward my case that the favourite, L'Ami Serge, was simply too short a price and had to be opposed. Jolly's Cracked It, I believed, was the one to take him on with.

As it turned out, the 4/9 about L'Ami Serge was not too short at all - and it just goes to prove that if you are going to oppose the skinny prices, you have to risk looking foolish on a regular basis.

Cue a load of 'told you so' from the barflies, although some level of credibility was restored when my double came up at 7/2.

So it's back to the drawing board today, although like last week, it's a quiet enough afternoon on the racing front with just a couple of graded races across the cards in the UK and Ireland.

The Grade Three Betfred Classic Chase Handicap (3.35 Warwick) looks interesting enough, and last year's winner Shotgun Paddy should prove popular at 7/1.

The eight-year-old was pulled up in the Welsh Grand National last time having almost come down at the second, and it's reasonable to overlook that race when analysing the form.

Previously, he had a spin over hurdles to shake off the cobwebs but I'm just not convinced by his jumping, and how he managed to finish second in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham is a mystery considering the amount of mistakes he made. He's 2lbs higher than last year and I think he'll struggle with the top-weight burden.

At 12/1, Paul Nicholls' Hawkes Point might be the one to side with. He was also pulled up in the Welsh National and I suppose it could be argued that he's losing his touch, now aged ten. But he's been dropped 6lbs by the handicapper to 133 which should make a significant difference and he's worth another shot at the prices.

At this stage of his career, he normally enjoys a slog in the mud and with the ground described as soft to heavy in places, today's conditions won't be a problem. It's been a long time since he's won a race; but it's also a long time since he raced off a mark this low.

Philip Hobbs' Return Spring has claims too following some promising chasing performances at Cheltenham and Exeter, although 9/2 looks short for a horse which has yet to race at this distance.

Each-way

It's not too often I go below 8/1 for my each-way selection but in an eight-runner field, the 6/1 about Spiritual Star for the Coral.co.uk Handicap (2.05) at Lingfield is just too hard to resist.

Anthony Carson's gelding has been raised 2lbs to 87 for finishing second to Heisman in November but he's made the frame off this mark before.

Today's selections

12.20 Lingfield: Magical Effect

2.05 Lingfield: Spiritual Star (e/w)

2.20 Punchestown: Alpha Des Obeaux

3.0 Warwick: Shantou Bob

3.35 Warwick: Hawkes Point

Irish Independent