Elixir is a big dan­ger to the Rath­hill show

The Racing Paper - - Tv Races And News -

CON­SID­ER­ING that 15 run­ners were left in to­day’s Grade 1 Tol­worth Novices’ Hur­dle at the five-day stage, it is slightly dis­ap­point­ing that just six will take their chance in the race, though this is a com­mon theme, and there hasn’t been a field size big­ger than six in any of the past five re­newals.

In­deed, just five took their chance in this last year, and this af­ter­noon’s con­test has plenty to live up to in com­par­i­son, con­sid­er­ing that the first two, Sum­merville Boy and Kalash­nikov, went on to fin­ish first and sec­ond again in a closer fin­ish to the Supreme Novices’ Hur­dle at Chel­tenham. In the mean­time, Kalash­nikov had gone on to win the Bet­fair Hur­dle.

Each of the “top four” Bri­tish yards are due to be rep­re­sented in this, and the one who sets the stan­dard on Time­form rat­ings is Elixir de Nutz for Colin Tiz­zard, who won this race two years ago with Finian’s Os­car.

Elixir de Nutz has done well in three starts since join­ing Tiz­zard from Philip Hobbs over the sum­mer, mak­ing a solid de­but for the yard when sec­ond in a novice con­test at Chel­tenham in Ocrober, be­fore win­ning twice in the Cotswolds since, in­clud­ing the Grade 2 Supreme Trial in Novem­ber.

He backed that ef­fort up when win­ning at a lower level at the same track the fol­low­ing month, and while he would likely need more with this step up into a top level con­test for the first time, he’s build­ing a pos­i­tive pro­file for the sea­son, and has lead­ing claims.

An­other lead­ing player on Time­form rat­ings is Paul Ni­cholls’ Grand Sancy, one of two run­ners for the yard. He has a dif­fer­ent pro­file to most of these, be­ing a sec­ond-sea­son novice with plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence. A three-time win­ner this au­tumn since un­der­go­ing a breath­ing op­er­a­tion, Grand Sancy landed a listed novice at Hay­dock in Novem­ber and ran his best race last time when fourth in hand­i­cap com­pany un­der con­di­tional rider Lor­can Wil­liams in the com­pet­i­tive Ex­change Tro­phy at As­cot just be­fore Christ­mas. He lacks the same po­ten­tial as some of these but has solid claims.

Ni­cholls has won this race four times in the past, though not since Breeds­breeze was suc­cess­ful back in 2008, and he is also due to send South­field Stone.

He has con­sid­er­ably less ex­pe­ri­ence com­pared to Grand Sancy, but like his sta­ble­mate, he has done noth­ing but im­prove dur­ing the first half of the sea­son, com­plet­ing a course hat­trick at Taun­ton in De­cem­ber, a run which en­com­passed a bumper win and two suc­cesses in novice hur­dles. Those three starts all came in mi­nor com­pany, mean­ing that this rep­re­sents a big step up in grade, and while he has hinted he can make an im­pact at higher lev­els, he would need to im­prove again to have a se­ri­ous chance.

How­ever, the most in­ter­est­ing prospect comes from the Nicky Hen­der­son yard, in the form of Rath­hill, who has a large P at­tached to his Time­form rat­ing. Closely re­lated to the top-class chaser Bell­shill, Rath­hill made a highly promis­ing start to his hur­dling ca­reer when win­ning a maiden at New­bury last month; go­ing on the bri­dle for a long way, with Barry Ger­aghty wait­ing for a while be­fore ask­ing him for max­i­mum ef­fort, be­fore as­sert­ing. As such he was value for more than the win­ning mar­gin of one and a half lengths, and he looks a re­ally use­ful prospect in this sphere.

Con­sid­er­ing that there is al­most cer­tainly more to come, and Nicky Hen­der­son’s record in the Tol­worth – he has won this five times in to­tal, and four times since 2011– Rath­hill is a wor­thy favourite for this, and will be very dif­fi­cult to beat.

Rep­re­sent­ing Dan Skel­ton is Idee de Garde, who switched from Nicky Richards af­ter win­ning a bumper in good style at Ayr in Jan­uary, hav­ing changed own­ers. He was un­able to re­peat the trick on his first start over tim­ber at New­bury last month, fin­ish­ing sec­ond and los­ing his un­beaten record, though that was still a promis­ing run con­sid­er­ing that he wasn’t ide­ally placed in the race that day, stay­ing on well in the lat­ter stages.

Com­plet­ing the field is the Fer­gal O’Brien-trained Mercy Mercy Me, who has some course form to his name, hav­ing fin­ished third in the Grade 2 Win­ter Novices’ Hur­dle over just short of two and a half miles last month. He has made a promis­ing start to his hur­dling ca­reer in two starts with­out win­ning, and while he re­mains with po­ten­tial yet, he is al­ready giv­ing out sig­nals that he could prove to be a bet­ter chaser than a hur­dler.

In con­clu­sion, it is an omi­nous sign that Rath­hill is the only one from Nicky Hen­der­son’s four in­tended run­ners at the five-day stage to take his chance, af­ter a highly im­pres­sive hur­dling de­but at New­bury last month.

He was value for more than the win­ning mar­gin that day, sweep­ing through on the bri­dle be­fore wait­ing to make his ef­fort, and it’s likely that there’s plenty more to come from him yet. Elixir de Nuit is a big dan­ger af­ter seal­ing a dou­ble at Chel­tenham to­wards the end of last year and is re­spected, while the vastly more-ex­pe­ri­enced Grand Sancy is an­other to con­sider.

Sets the stan­dard: Elixir De Nutz

Worth con­sid­er­ing: Grand Sancy

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