By Chris Dixon
If UK racing is your focus for betting then there’s not much to go at today as Sedgefield is the sole surviving card on a quiet Sunday.
As such, I’m light on any strong fancies today but have got a few horses to put forward as small bets.
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Tonto's Spirit, who is 5-1 with bet365, looks to repeat last year’s win in the opening 2m handicap hurdle off the same mark as 12 months ago and given he went on to win again next time off 7lb higher, he appeals as a potentially well handicapped horse today.
A four-time winner on the flat since, Tonto’s Spirit has a good career strike rate of eight wins from 28 starts, including three over hurdles, and his record in this grade of handicap over timber reads 113.
At his best when allowed to bowl along in front, I don’t think the change in tactics to take a lead over a longer trip really suited last time but he still looked like a horse on good terms with himself and I expect a return to his favoured tactics as he returns to the shorter trip today.
Reverant Cust was unfortunate not to win when set too much to do at Haydock last weekend and appeals as the main danger despite a 7lb rise.
The handicap chase at 3.10 looks fairly trappy with most of the field holding a realistic chance, but having finally narrowed it down to Never Up, Tornado In Milan and Viens Chercher, I’m siding with the last-named who is the biggest price of the trio at 11-2 with Paddy Power.
Off the track for 153 days, Viens Chercher arrives here as a fresh horse, something that has been a pointer to a big run from him in the past, with two of his three wins in Britain recorded when returning from breaks of 113 and 251 days respectively.
He’s yet to win a handicap but has dropped in the weights to a fair looking mark and takes a drop in grade to the lowest class of handicap he’s contested so far.
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It’s possible that better ground suits ideally as he’s often been kept to a sounder surface, but he’s shown enough on testing ground in the past to be encouraged that he can show his form on this type of surface.
Most of the runners in the closing mares’ handicap hurdle at 4.10 have something to prove and that includes Theatre Act, who was pulled up over a longer trip here on Boxing Day.
However, her previous run in a higher grade at Carlisle had offered some encouragement that she still had the sort of ability that saw her win three races last winter and it’s hoped that the return of Brian Hughes in the saddle can see her recapture that form.
Aboard for all three previous wins, Hughes seems to get the best out of Theatre Act and with her stable hitting some form of late she might well be able to take advantage of a mark that has slipped to 11lb lower than her last win, which came on this card last year.
She is 4-1 with Paddy Power at the time of writing.
Chris Dixon’s Sunday selections:
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