Dougie Costello missed out on a Grade 1 winner at Newcastle last Saturday, but he can gain compensation at Sandown this afternoon.
The jockey, who rode at Newbury instead of continuing his successful association with Countrywide Flame, was left to lick his wounds when he drew a blank and suffered a fall at his chosen venue on an afternoon which saw John Quinn’s Cheltenham Festival hope run out an impressive winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Newcastle’s showpiece jumps race.
This afternoon at Sandown, Costello can bounce back by lifting the Grade 2 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle on the exciting Le Bec, trained by Emma Lavelle.
The four-year-old was hugely impressive with Costello on board at Kempton six weeks ago, winning by 11 lengths without coming under serious pressure.
Le Bec faces far stiffer opposition this time around, including the Paul Nicholls-trained Southfield Theatre, a Cheltenham winner last time, and Jonjo O’Neill’s useful-looking Taquin Du Seuil, but he is fancied to prove equal to the task and come out in front for Costello.
Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell makes the long journey to the Esher course with Bold Sir Brian, who has won six of his 12 career starts.
This potentially top-notch prospect could hardly have been more impressive than he was when coasting home on his comeback race at Carlisle last month.
This is a step up in class, but Peter Buchanan’s mount promises to take plenty of beating.
Nicky Henderson is beginning to get his powerful team into top gear and the Lambourn trainer has an excellent chance with Thanks For Coming in the John Jarvis Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Winner of a bumper and a hurdle, Thanks For Coming has finished second in both his starts over fences, most recently on this course when he chased home the multi-talented Overturn, who had far too much pace for him.
Thanks For Coming will relish tomorrow’s step up in distance and, with no Overturn in the line-up this time, he can make it third time lucky under Barry Geraghty.
Also worth considering are Paul Nicholls’ French recruit Valco de Touzaine (12.40) and Tanerko Emery (3.30), who lost no caste in defeat in a stronger race at Cheltenham three weeks ago.
On tomorrow’s Flat card at Lingfield, a note should be made of Hepworth in the 32Red.com Maiden Stakes.
Trained by John Gosden, this well-bred filly made a most encouraging debut at Doncaster in October of last year, when finishing a close-up second, but has not been seen since. She is back now and she remains an interesting proposition.
David Elsworth’s Great Demeanor (12.05) ran well enough at Kempton last time to suggest he has a maiden in him, while the step back up to seven furlongs may work the oracle on Parisian Pyramid (12.40). Once a 90-rated performer, he is now down to a mark of 69 and if he can ever find his form, he is handicapped to win in style. Jamie Spencer takes the mount.
The nap vote goes to Silly Billy (3.25), who has been running well enough lately to think that he can return to winning ways on a course where he has scored in the past.
12.40 Valco de Touzaine, 1.10 Thanks For Coming, 1.45 Le Bec, 2.20 Bold Sir Brian, 2.55 Satou, 3.30 Tanerko Emery.
Today’s other meetings: Exeter and Lingfield.
11.35 Classy Trick, 12.05 Great Demeanor, 12.40 Parisian Pyramid, 1.10 Neighbourhood, 1.40 Beat The Bell, 2.15 Hepworth, 2.50 Sudden Wish, 3.25 Silly Billy (NAP).
Tomorrow’s other meetings: Aintree, Chepstow, Sandown and Wetherby.