Minella appeals at Doncaster
Ben Linfoot might back Rock On Ruby later but he's definitely siding with Minella Forfitness at Doncaster today.
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We haven't seen a Champion Hurdle trial on better ground than soft yet this season but we get one at Doncaster today as reigning champ Rock On Ruby takes on impressive Christmas Hurdle winner Darlan and last year's Triumph Hurdle hero Countrywide Flame in an intriguing contest.
The pace angle is key as Rock On Ruby needs a thorough test over two miles to be seen at his best while Darlan can cope with a tactical affair as he showed when sprinting away from his rivals at Kempton over Christmas.
However, I'm not sure whether Darlan should be such a strong favourite this morning. He's got plenty to prove still at this level and with the better ground also in Rock On Ruby's favour the current champion may have been underestimated.
If support really comes in for Darlan and Rock On Ruby drifts to 9/4 or bigger I won't be able to resist those kind of prices.
However, while Rock On Ruby is filed in the drawer marked maybe I will definitely be having a bit of the 9/2 on offer about Darlan's stablemate MINELLA FORFITNESS in the 32 Bonus At 32Red.com Maiden Hurdle (1.50).
Nicky Henderson's six-year-old is a bigger price than I ever thought he would be for a maiden hurdle because he lines up in a competitive race with two rivals in particular who are bound to be well supported.
Aaim To Prosper, a dual Cesarewitch winner on the Flat, is one of them. Now in the care of Paul Nicholls, he ran a race full of promise on his hurdling bow at Newbury and should improve for the step up in trip here.
Zuider Zee is the other. He won the November Handicap for John Gosden and makes his debut for John Ferguson today on the back of positive reports about his schooling.
I just think the popular classy Flat recruits may struggle against a proper National Hunt horse in the shape of Minella Forfitness who looked one to watch himself following an encouraging hurdling debut at Ascot in November.
He ran in third that day after travelling well and looks sure to benefit from the experience and the return to a better surface.
A winner of his bumper on good ground on debut at Kempton last March, he was impressive enough to be sent to the Grade Two bumper at Aintree the following month where he ran a promising seventh behind The New One and My Tent Or Yours after not getting a clear run.
That's eye-catching form and at the prices it might be worth taking a chance he can get the better of Aaim To Prosper and Zuider Zee as well as a host of other interesting contenders.
Finally, keep an eye out for Chosen Dream in the 32RedBet.com Handicap Hurdle (3.30).
This horse has shown very little in three starts for Jonjo O'Neill over two and two-and-a-half miles in maiden hurdles but he could be a different proposition now going handicapping over three.
AP McCoy replaces Maurice Linehan in the saddle despite his boss JP McManus having Tarvini in the field and it's not really a surprise he's second favourite despite less than encouraging form figures.