Tolworth Hurdle Guide

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RUNNERS

With the final field yet to be declared at the time of writing, as many as fifteen names are still in the hat for the Tolworth Novices Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday.

First run in 1976, the Tolworth Hurdle is a Grade One novice hurdle contest over a distance of two miles. A key trial for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham, last year's renewal provided the first two home of that very contest.

This year, Nicky Henderson looks to have a strong hand with a JP McManus-owned trio. At the forefront of those is current favourite Rathhill who travelled so impressively on route to victory in a maiden at Newbury last time out. There appears to be more to come from the 6yo gelding, who could shorten in the Supreme market with a victory here.

Birchdale also won on debut for the Champion Trainer at Warwick in a maiden. Like Rathhill, he too cruised to an unchallenged victory, but over an extra five furlongs in distance, indicating a place in the Ballymore could be on the horizon.

The final McManus runner is the mare Epatante, who had three races in France before moving to Britain. She showed a smart turn of foot at Kempton back in November, similar somewhat to a sprinter on the flat over five or six furlongs. All three named, have leading chances.

Splitting those in the betting, is Colin Tizzard's Elixir De Nutz, who has raced at Cheltenham on all three of his most recent starts, winning two and finishing second in the other. One of those victories was in a Grade Two Supreme Trial beating some useful looking novices, and with the Dorset trainer flying, is surely in with a leading chance.

As is Ben Pauling's Bright Forecast, as he proved his big odds win at Newbury was no fluke, but following up in style from the front at Leicester just after Christmas. Another with a smart turn of foot, this contest is already appearing to look like a sprint.

Paul Nicholls became the tenth most winning trainer of all time on New Years Day, and has Southfield Stone in the Tolworth field, ready to prove he can perform away from Taunton.

The 6yo grey racked up a hat-trick at the Somerset venue in December, but will need to handle the rise in class, as will Olly Murphy's Brewin'upastorm, who failed to really land a blow to Champ, when jumping up into top company in the Challow Novices Hurdle at Newbury between Christmas and New Years.

Elsewhere, Evan William saddles Esprit Du Large, whilst Nigel Twiston-Davies has Munir/Souede duo Muratello and Torpillo, who both do have other targets.

TRENDS

As recently referred to, this contest provides a great trial for the Cheltenham novice events. Twelve months ago, Summerville Boy beat Kalashnikov in this race in January, which was also the same result in the Grade One Supreme on the first race of the first day of the festival back in March. Noland also completed the same feat in 2006.

The 2016 renewal also saw a horse go on to win at the Cheltenham Festival three months later - when Yorkhill won the Neptune Investment - now known as the Ballymore.

Thirteen of the last fourteen - although novices, had won over at least two miles over hurdles before. Ten of the last fourteen won on their most previous outting, however only two of those had ran at Sandown before, and may not be aware of the challenging hill the Esher track poses. Thirteen of the last fourteen also had their most previous outing in the last six weeks.

Twelve of the last fourteen winners were priced 5/1 or shorter, with one less coming from the top three in the market. Half of the winners since 2005 were favourites, with five extra market principles placing.

Paul Nicholls has had four winners in the last fourteen years; three of those coming in consecutive years between 2006 and 2008. Current Champion Trainer has also had four winners, and can count upon the services of Barry Geraghty who has won the race three times.

Ruby Walsh, who rode Yorkhill to his success three years ago, also has three wins to his name.

20 of the last 26 runnings have been won by a horse aged five or six. Despite all being novices in a Grade One, there are weight differences in those with unique ages, and the average SP in the last 8 runnings is 4/1.

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