Stormy Weather cruised to an easy success on his debut over fences at Wetherby three weeks ago, and can double his chasing score when he returns to the A1 course this afternoon.
Trained at Norton by Brian Ellison, who bought him out of the now disbanded Howard Johnson stable, Stormy Weather has proved a shrewd purchase, winning since on the Flat and over hurdles before his latest victory over the major obstacles.
Ellison feels the gelding ticks all the right boxes to scale some heady heights over fences and the fact that he relishes testing ground – a necessity at Wetherby today – makes him an attractive proposition.
Stormy Weather lines up under Danny Cook in the Constant Security Novices’ Chase.
Tony McCoy bypasses more valuable meetings at Sandown and Aintree to travel to Wetherby, which looks significant. It is unlikely he will return home empty-handed.
The perennial champion jockey can start the afternoon the way he means to go on by winning the opening totepool.com Novices’ Hurdle on Catching On.
Jonjo O’Neill’s gelding won an Irish point-to-point on his only previous start. This looks a good opportunity to start his professional career.
In the Bet totequadpot At totepool.com Handicap, McCoy will be aboard American Legend, another horse from O’Neill’s Jackdaws Castle yard.
A winner last time out at Ffos Las, American Legend looks to be getting his act together. He has a stiffer task on his plate here off a 5lb higher mark, but he may be able to keep pace with the handicapper.
While it is difficult to be confident of the chances of Whistling Senator also obliging for McCoy and O’Neill in the winningexpress.com Novices’ Handicap Chase, this is a modest race and if he can transfer the best of his hurdles form on his fourth attempt over fences, the five-year-old may come out on top.
Also worth noting at Wetherby are the Tim Easterby-trained pair, Lease Lend (1.45), three times a course winner, and Runswick Royal (3.30), who made a very pleasing winning debut at Haydock a couple of weeks ago.
At Sandown, all eyes will be on the brilliant Sprinter Sacre as he returns to the fray in the SportingBet Tingle Creek Chase.
Nicky Henderson’s handsome gelding proved head and shoulders over his rivals as a novice last season, running up an unbeaten sequence which included major victories at Cheltenham and Aintree.
A spring-heeled jumper with a high cruising speed, Sprinter Sacre faces a useful rival in Sanctuaire, who has the benefit of two course wins under his belt, but such is his class that it will be disappointing if Sprinter Sacre can not make a winning start to the campaign. Regular rider Barry Geraghty is on board.
Henderson and Geraghty have excellent prospects of dominating the Sandown card.
They will be strongly represented in the Markel Insurance Henry VIII Novices’ Chase by Captain Conan, who looked a high-class fencer in the making when reappearing in style at Cheltenham last month. He looks likely to make a big name for himself as a chaser.
Golden Hoof can be another winner for Henderson and Geraghty in the opening John Oakley 50th Birthday Novices’ Hurdle. The four-year-old looked good when winning decisively at Kempton last month and has the scope to defy a penalty.
• Tomorrow’s nap selection is Golden Sparkle (2.55, Kelso).
12.10 Catching On, 12.45 Stormy Weather, 1.15 American Legend, 1.45 Lease Lend, 2.20 Trucking Along, 2.55 Whistling Senator, 3.30 Runswick Royal.
12.20 Golden Hoof, 12.55 Tempest River, 1.25 Big Easy, 1.55 Captain Conan, 2.30 Ifandbutwhynot, 3.05 Sprinter Sacre, 3.40 Tempo De Cotte.
Today’s other meetings: Aintree, Chepstow and Lingfield.
Tomorrow’s meetings: Kelso, Lingfield and Warwick.