Saturday's NAP Time comes in the 3.15 at Wincanton where i've chosen a 6/4 win selection to get involved with!
Traditionally the Badger Ales meeting at Wincanton offers very competitive racing across the card with a good mixture of established horses and promising types turning up to contest a variety of graded races. One such race, the Grade 2 Rising Stars Novices’ Chase is of particular interest and I have outlined my best bet of the day!
Wincanton is a sharp right handed track with tricky fences, particularly the three in the home straight which are positioned close together and penalise horses who sit off the pace. This track plays to the strengths of a horse with good tactical speed as well as the natural ability to jump obstacles quickly and efficiently.
When examining any field at Wincanton the starting point has to be to consider any Paul Nicholls runner. Overall he enjoys an impressive 28% success rate over the last 5 years at this track and since 2006 he has won this particular contest 4 times, the last of which came in 2011 with Silviniaco Conti. This year he saddles the potentially top-quality WONDERFUL CHARM (6/4 Coral). This Grade 2 winning hurdler took to fences like dream when he obliterated a small field at Fakenham on his first start of the season 15 days ago. That day he triumphed on good ground over 2m6f by 8 lengths over another useful type from the stable of Nicky Henderson. Realistically the winning margin could have been far greater but the horse was never really pressed by his jockey as he jumped and travelled effortlessly the entire way round. I cannot emphasise enough how impressive his display was considering he seemed best suited last year over a shorter trip and in bigger fields. His trainer was very pleased with his efforts and in my mind today’s race has always been one he has had his eye on. On that basis one can presume that the horse was by no means fully wound up for his first appearance and he could well improve hugely for todays renewal.
Nevertheless, he faces a tough challenge in the form of the Colin Tizzard trained Third Intention (5/2 Betfred). Although this horse failed to win a single chasing start last year, he clearly has the best form in the book after finishing a good second to Dynaste (the current Paddy Power Gold Cup ante-post favourite) at Aintree in the Mildmay Novices Chase. He began his season with a good win by beating the long odds-on favourite Rebel Fitz by 1 and a quarter lengths at Cheltenham on good ground over 2m4f. That piece of form in itself is of very high quality and he was most impressive with the way he jumped and picked up nearing the line. His trainer stated after the race that he had a wind operation through the summer and that has helped him to finish off his races properly.
Next we have the other two runners of Fox Appeal (5/1 Ladbrokes) and Meister Eckhart (7/2 Betfred), both of which were good quality hurdlers who also contested graded races last year. Fox Appeal lost by a quarter of a length to another Paul Nicholls trained horse – Black Thunder on his last start over fences. That horse was included in this field, however he was withdrawn at the 24 hour declaration stage which gives the impression that Wonderful Charm is thought of as a far better prospect than Black Thunder at home and therefore should have the measure of Fox Appeal.
Meister Eckhart will be having his first start over fences and looks to have been given a difficult task. Although he has good hurdling form to his name, his best efforts have come on heavy ground when the pace of the race has been that little bit more sedate. The fact he begins his chasing career on good to soft ground at Wincanton in a small field race doesn't particularly appeal especially against horses who have already shown impressive levels of form.
So then, although I am in no doubt that this will be a good quality race I am also in no doubt that of the quartet the one I want to be on is Wonderful Charm. The impression I get from the way Paul Nicholls has trained this horse is that this race has been always been the aim. Visually the manner in which he won his last start was very striking and as a potential improver he could progress in leaps and bounds. Although this is a massive step up in class his attitude and ability screams that of a Grade 1 horse and this race may well just be a stepping stone on to better things. Third Intention is definitely a good horse and although he won his last start as well, he was only taking on one other horse (who he received 8lbs from) and who made numerous jumping errors. Prior to his wind operation there were concerns about this horses’ attitude at the end of his races, a concern which bothers me still; especially if he gets into a head to head fight to the line. All in all Wonderful Charm should have stepped up from his first start and should also prove to be the likeliest winner!
WONDERFUL CHARM (6/4 Coral)
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