Take a chance with Ruby

  • By: Ian Ogg
  • Last Updated: February 4 2013, 8:33 GMT

Ian Ogg's horse-by-horse guide to this afternoon's 32Red Hurdle at Doncaster.

Will Noel Fehily be celebrating again?

Countrywide Flame

Returned at 33/1 when winning last season's Triumph Hurdle but proved that victory was no flash in the pan when finishing a solid second to Grumeti at Aintree. Hugely impressive defeat of Supreme Novices' winner Cinders And Ashes in the Fighting Fifth (to take his Grade One record to two wins, a second and a third) but neither he, nor the runner-up,shone at Kempton on Boxing Day to cast doubt upon the value of the form. The forecast better ground should suit but he has a little to prove in this company.

Darlan

Progressed in leaps and bounds last season and was a shade unfortunate not to have finished the campaign with his unbeaten record intact. He was still travelling well when falling at Newbury and didn't really enjoy the run of the race in the Supreme. Seemingly surprised his connections with the manner of his victory in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day where a slowly run race on heavy ground turned into a sprint. There was no reason to believe that should have favoured him and it was hard not to be impressed although the two that chased him home are 50/1 for the Champion and 14s for the Supreme which is enough to cast a shadow over the form.

Rock On Ruby

Had gone somewhat under the radar when winning last year's Champion Hurdle despite finishing a good second to Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant (at the Festival) in Neptune sponsored novices the season before and again to Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle on his preceding start. That trend has continued this season but there was an awful lot to like about his reappearance on unsuitably heavy ground and these quicker conditions will suit better.

Clerk's Choice

A winner of four of his 14 starts over hurdles but he paid a heavy price for a wide margin win at Cheltenham in 2010 with the handicapper dishing out a staggering 31lb rise. It's been an uphill slog ever since but he's finally dropped to a competitive mark and it's to be hoped that isn't affected if he manages to finish in close proximity to the principals.

Summary

It's rather a shame that Clerk's Choice hasn't adopted the tearaway tactics that served him so well as a novice of late as he could have injected some much needed pace into the contest.

The trainers of all three of the big players will have left something to work on with the Festival in mind which adds to the complexity of the puzzle.

Countrywide Flame wasn't troubled by the small field at Newcastle but, although visually impressive there, the form is open to question and last year's Triumph hasn't worked out sparklingly.

Darlan proved surprisingly adept at coping with a tactical affair at Kempton and is, obviously, a most exciting prospect and there's no doubt that Rock On Ruby would prefer a stronger gallop to aim at but the forecast price of around 2/1 is tempting enough to earn Harry Fry's stable star the vote.


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