Sports Line ready to prove worth against Nicholls' duo
THE ex-Willie Mullins' inmate, Sports Line, should be followed closely as he makes his debut for Donald McCain in the Graduation Chase at Exeter today.
The seven-year-old has arrived from the Irish champion trainer's yard in Closutton with solid Grade One form in the book and he looks the horse to beat in this contest.
An easy winner on his chasing debut, he went down narrowly to An Cathaoir Mor in the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown in January, but did himself no favours when running too keenly at Cheltenham.
Sports Line then finished third behind Captain Cee Bee at the Punchestown Festival and while there is a question mark over his fitness on his first outing of the season, his class can see him account for the Paul Nicholls-trained pair Royal Charm and Chapoturgeon.
McCain should double up with the exciting Wymott in the three-mile novices' chase. A Grade Two winner over timber, he looked an absolute natural on his debut over fences at Bangor, beating some decent types in the process.
Nigel Twiston-Davies' Amber Brook is an interesting fencing debutante in a competitive mares novices chase. Having reached her ceiling over timber -- the nine-year-old was just below the best of her sex -- she could be pretty useful over the larger obstacles as well.
Easter Legend is the obvious danger. Emma Lavelle's charge is unbeaten this season and has also won over course and distance, but the double penalty which she carries might just be her undoing.
Over at Towcester, 'Choc' Thornton has a decent book of rides and Alan King's stable jockey can continue his comeback from a bad knee injury by guiding Asturienne and Rustarix to victory for the Barbury Castle trainer.
At Kempton last night, Irish raider Duff had to settle for third spot in the Listed Sunbury Stakes. Ridden by Kevin Manning, the Eddie Lynam-trained seven-year-old had no answer to the late surge of outsider Spirit Of Sharjah which went on to win by a length.
Meanwhile, Ascot officials have their fingers crossed that bad weather doesn't scupper their meeting on Saturday featuring the BGC Long Walk Hurdle. Racing is also scheduled for tomorrow and prospects look better for the first day with colder weather set to move in as the weekend approaches.
Star novice Time For Rupert will be given an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. The six-year-old looks like going right to the top over the larger obstacles judged by his first two successes at Cheltenham, where he again won as he liked on Saturday.
Trainer Paul Webber is considering stepping his charge out of novice company for the Argento Chase back at Prestbury Park on January 29. If he were to find the target there, the Gold Cup could then be considered.