The re-scheduled Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton (Saturday 1.35pm) has attracted a select field of young talent as well as an older challenger with a live chance.
Since the turn of the century five-year-olds have the best record in this race, posting five victories. An interesting one lines up here, Philip Hobbs’ Garde La Victoire (5/1).
He won his bumper at Exeter as a three-year-old and went on to win his first two starts over hurdles. He scored in a maiden hurdle on soft ground at Aintree in October, beating Anthony Honeyball’s odds on favourite, Regal Encore, by two lengths. He followed up particularly impressively a month later in a two mile novices’ hurdle at Warwick, beating Alan King’s Gone Too Far easily by 11 lengths.
He found one too good for him for the first time in his most recent run at Cheltenham in December. He was beaten a neck by Ian Williams’ thoroughly useful Ballyalton. He has never encountered ground slower than good to soft before. If he can produce his best on this more testing surface he has a realistic chance
David Pipe’s six-year-old The Liquidator (5/2) is the joint favourite for good reason. He is unbeaten in his two runs over hurdles. He was last seen at Cheltenham in November winning the Grade 2 Sharp Novices’ Hurdle. He pulverised the field of four, making all and beating John Ferguson’s Sea Lord by 15 lengths on good ground.
He was equally impressive in a two mile one furlong novices’ hurdle at Carlisle in October. He started as the 2/5 favourite and won like one, beating Brian Ellison’s Knightly Escapade by 11 lengths, never coming off the bridle. The style of his latest victories makes him look to be the one they have to beat but Pipe has expressed concerns that Kempton may not suit him as well as Sandown
A potential challenger of the same age is Nicky Henderson’s Josses Hill (11/2). He was bought for £100,000 after coming second by some 20 lengths to Willie Mullins’ Faugheen on his debut in a Punchestown bumper for Andy Oliver in May. Faugheen has won his three subsequent starts, including a Grade 3 novice hurdle at Limerick. Josses Hill is unbeaten since. He won his bumper easily at Ascot in November and went on to win a 22 runner novice hurdle at Newbury in December. He beat Andrew Balding’s Communicator by three lengths on soft ground.
Henderson has won two of the last three Tolworth Hurdles. This six-year-old son of Winged Love could well provide him with another victory. He is the choice of stable jockey, Barry Geraghty.
When entries were re-opened, Henderson chose to add his lightly raced seven-year-old, Royal Boy (8/1) to the Tolworth card. Royal Boy started as the 5/2 favourite in this race last year but could only finish third, seven lengths behind Jeremy Scott’s Melodic Rendezvous. He was not seen again until end of November. He was the odds on favourite but finished a distant third in a novices’ handicap chase here, some 50 lengths behind Warren Greatrex’s Baby Mix. He didn’t appear to enjoy larger obstacles, scaring himself after making a serious mistake half way round.
He redeemed himself on his next run in a two mile six furlong national hunt maiden hurdle at Ascot a month later. He beat his stablemate, Big Hands Harry, easily by six lengths on soft ground posting his first win since his point-to-pointing days. He has only run five times and it is difficult to assess how good he is. Geraghty obviously prefers Josses Hill. He will be partnered by champion jockey, AP McCoy.
Another new entrant is Martin Keighley’s Creepy (16/1). This six-year-old looks to have a much better chance than his original runner, Johnny Og. Creepy has been campaigned over longer distances this season and won the two mile five furlong Grade 2 Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. He beat Emma Lavelle’s Timesremembered by a length.
Most recently he unseated Ian Popham four from home in the Grade 1 Challow Novices’ Hurdle over the same distance at Newbury on December 28. He appeared to be going well at the time. If two miles was thought likely to suit him you have to wonder why he has not been tried over this distance before.
The Irish challenge comes from Willie Mullins’ very useful six-year-old French-bred, the joint favourite, Upazo (5/2). He won two bumpers in France as a four-year-old for his owner, breeder and trainer, Alain Couetil, before joining Mullins.
Upazo came second in two of his four runs in maiden hurdles in Ireland last season, starting as the favourite in both. He has redeemed himself this season, losing his maiden status first time out at Fairyhouse in November, beating Stuart Crawford’s Mister Nibbles easily by over six lengths. He went on to trounce his elders in a two mile hurdle at Fairyhouse in December. He beat Thomas Mullins’ Fosters Cross by 10 lengths. He has form on testing ground and has obvious claims but this will be his first trip over the Irish Sea. Ruby Walsh takes the ride.
Six-year-olds have a fairly impressive record in this race but no eight-year-old has ever won it (and very few have tried). John Ferguson’s new French-bred charge Prince Siegfried (8/1) aims to buck the trend. This half brother to Libertarian, the runner-up in the Derby, scored seven times on the flat for Godolphin, including a Group 3 over a mile and two furlongs when he was trained by Saeed Bin Suroor.
He was the odds-on favourite in his debut over hurdles at Fakenham in October but could only finish fifth by seven lengths. He looked to need the run and a month later he won at Huntingdon, beating Henderson’s My Wigwam Or Yours by a head. He was last seen in a Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at Ascot on December 20. He had taken the lead two out but fell heavily at the last under Denis O’Regan. He won his hurdle race on soft and succeeded on heavy on the flat. Despite his age, he is not without a chance.
Tolworth Hurdle Betting Tips Conclusion
The Liquidator and Upazo are joint favourites for obvious reasons but a few of David Pipe’s runners have disappointed recently and neither horse provides any value here. Our pick has to be the in-form Nicky Henderson’s JOSSES HILL best priced at 11/2 with Stan James or Paddy Power.