Low weight can work to Barlow's advantage
THE abandonment of today's Tolworth Hurdle card due to waterlogging added to the annual woes of the prestigious Grade One fixture, which Sandown has now lost to the elements on eight occasions since 1991.
In its absence, Wincanton hosts the most interesting cross-channel jumps meeting this afternoon, with the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase now unexpectedly taking centre stage. David Pipe's 2012 winner Consigliere tops the weights for the two-mile-five-furlong contest, with Paul Nicholls' course winner Jump City another that is sure to prove popular.
However, with the ground as heavy as it is, it might pay to look for something with a bit less weight to carry, and Warren Greatrex's Barlow appeals as the type that could have a big say at a fair price.
A 2011 point-to-point victor that won a novice hurdle over two-and-a-half miles, the handsome son of Beneficial has yet to win in nine outings over fences, though he has finished in the first four in six of his seven completed starts.
While he needed the run on his seasonal reappearance at Plumpton in October, his most recent turn at Exeter confirmed that there is a race like this to be won with him. On that occasion, he raced at or close to the pace for most of the race and fenced really fluently.
In the end, around what is one of the stiffest tracks in the country, he ultimately failed to fully see out the three-mile trip, tiring into third from the last fence. In the circumstances, it was an honourable defeat and the fact that the winner, Samingarry, went on to follow up off a 6lb higher mark next time gave the form a solid appearance.
Today, Barlow gets in off the very same rating of 121, with the combination of the drop in trip and the testing going expected to suit ideally. With that in mind, and the excellent Noel Fehily up top, he could take plenty of stopping under just 10st 11lb.
In the first division of the two-mile-six-furlong novice' hurdle, Nicholls' Exeter winner Tagrita is worth opposing with Closing Ceremony, which will be suited by the two-mile-six-furlong trip after also tiring late on when third over three at Ffos Las. As a full-brother to the stable's useful chaser Highland Lodge, Emma Lavelle's five-year-old has the scope to do better on just his fourth career start under Richie McLernon.
The second leg of the same race is another intriguing little contest, with Greatrex's Sky Watch, Nicholls' Black Cow and Polly Gundry's dual point-to-point winner Harry's Farewell among those that must have live prospects.
Of the nine runners, though, the one that appeals as being most open to improvement is the Venetia Williams-trained The Clock Leary.
Conqueror of the recent dual hurdle winner Gold Patrol when winning a Ballydarragh point-to-point just over a year ago, the Helissio six-year-old was second to the useful Doctor Harper -- another dual hurdle winner lately -- on his bumper debut at Sandown last February.
Unsighted in the Champion Bumper in March, he then raced quite keenly on his reappearance at Lingfield, when he kept on at one pace behind Greatrex's Madness Light.
That was an encouraging turn that was shed in an even better light when Madness Light followed up in ready style in a Uttoxeter handicap off a rating of 124. If The Clock Leary settles a little better now that he has had a run, then he could step up to get off the mark over flights for Williams' Co Cork-born stable jockey Aidan Coleman.
Best Bet: Barlow