Elite Baby can upset Zarkandar
Our horse by horse guide to Saturday's totepool.com Elite Hurdle at Wincanton.
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Made a late return to action last season, but made a fine impression when returning from 10 months off to win the Betfair Hurdle giving weight to all but one of his rivals. Fine fifth in the Champion Hurdle, where he was outpaced before running on, especially considering he had coughed after his Newbury win. Fell on his final start at Aintree which was probably a race too far but could be a stronger horse this year and, although he has to give a tonne of weight away, he could be classy enough to cope.
Very solid dual-performer who showed plenty of heart to record a nose victory at Market Rasen in September, his second such win at the track in succession. Seems to be progressing with each start over timber, and although he has 10 lengths to find with Zarkandar on their 2011 Triumph Hurdle run (more reliable form than when they later clashed at Aintree), he is 12lbs better off, not allowing for his jockey's claim.
Failed to complete on his final two starts of last season, but had been on a firm upward curve prior to those mishaps, winning very professionally at Ascot (twice) and Plumpton. Like Zarkandar, he shapes as if this is a minimum trip really, but he does only have six races under his belt and whilst inexperience may count against him, he should still have plenty of improvement to come. An interesting contender.
Has some solid form to his name on the face of things, but didn't really threaten to win any of his races after his Newbury victory a year ago. It may be that he needs a step up in trip to be at his best, but more likely that he isn't giving his all late in the race due to his breathing if the tongue-tie (on the last twice) and prior breathing operations are any indication. Mind you, he has a great record fresh, and was classy on the flat in France, so this could be the best time to catch him.
Very inconsistent profile, with more non-completions (three) than wins to his name (two) from 11 starts. Went chasing last season, which was disastrous, and no surprise to see him back over hurdles as he isn't the biggest. One positive for backers is that his best performances have come after a lengthy break, but it's grasping at straws somewhat.
Mark of 143 looks attractive on some of his form, most notably his UK debut when he jumped like a buck and trounced Hinterland, who won very easily off a mark of 141 at Chepstow last month. Tom George's ace didn't show much on his reappearance at Cheltenham, but he was giving lots of weight away and, for all he was impressive at Prestbury Park on debut, his performances since suggest it might not be his ideal venue. Wincanton, like Kempton was in February, could play to his strengths, and he looks a huge danger to the top-weight.
Comes here on the back of a really disappointing season, with a well-held second to Third Intention in the National Spirit at Fontwell the best he could manage from four starts over timber. Had previously looked very exciting when winning three novice events the season before, culminating in a Grade Two victory at Aintree, and he looks well-treated on a mark of 140 if he can recapture that sort of form.
A fascinating contest, with top-weight Zarkandar giving the race a lopsided, but thoroughly intriguing shape. Paul Nicholls has won four of the last ten renewals, three of which were won by horses carrying 11st 7lbs or more, and Zarkandar could easily make it five. He is classy, has lots of improvement to come, and has a good record fresh, however conceding 20lbs to the race-fit BABY MIX may be too tough.
Tom George's grey should relish the return to a flat track and will feel like he has lost his jockey having carried 11st 6lbs last time out. Balder Succes is still something of an unknown, especially against good horses, having departed early at Cheltenham and Aintree, but is hugely respected with his stable in good form. Prospect Wells could easily run his best of the season first time up so watch the betting closely, especially in regards to his stablemate Zarkandar.