Puffin Billy can bag win
Chris Wilson thinks Puffin Billy can continue his dramatic rise by winning the feature race on a really competitive card at Exeter on Sunday.
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EXETER: 2.00 Just A Par, 2.30 PUFFIN BILLY (NAP), 3.00 Pearlysteps, 3.30 Frontier Spirit, 4.00 Dare Me, 4.30 Vieux Lion Rouge, 5.00 The Liquidator.
NAAS: 1.40 Welsh Nayber, 2.10 Mikael D'Haguenet, 2.40 Golden Plan, 3.10 Barneys Honour, 3.40 OK Oscar, 4.10 Turban, 4.40 Agent James.
SOUTHWELL: 1.50 Maslak, 2.20 Hazard Warning, 2.50 Darkest Night, 3.20 Balmoral Castle, 3.50 Dundrum Dancer, 4.20 Kabbaas, 4.50 Flying Pickets.
DOUBLE: Puffin Billy and Pearlysteps.
Puffin Billy can continue his dramatic rise by winning the feature race on a really competitive card at Exeter.
Trainer Oliver Sherwood has already described this exceedingly talented five-year-old as possibly being the best horse he has trained.
Hyperbole should often be treated with caution in racing, but Sherwood would appear very much on the money from what we have so far witnessed.
The unbeaten Puffin Billy has oozed class since being sent hurdling, with a five-length cakewalk on his debut at Newbury serving notice of what was to come in a Grade Two novices' hurdle at Ascot in December.
Although the calibre of opposition might have been called into question that day, Barry Geraghty's companion sauntered five lengths clear without being asked a question.
The Listed Bathwick Tyres Plymouth Novices' Hurdle may represent a drop in class, but it still looks like being his sternest test to date given the appearance of Melodic Rendezvous.
Jeremy Scott's seven-year-old is already a Grade One scorer, having pocketed in the Tolworth in January, and will have a huge following at the Devon circuit.
There is, however, a suspicion he is best in a quagmire, whereas the ground appears to be drying out nicely in time for his meeting.
And with Puffin Billy belonging to an age group which has won four of the last five renewals of this race, Sherwood's representative might just have a shade more scope to progress.
Pearlysteps can make up for lost time by landing a decent prize later on the card.
Henry Daly's 10-year-old rather lost his way towards the end of last season, when he was pulled up at Ascot and Newbury, and has not been seen since March.
Before that, though, he had looked a solid stayer within the chasing ranks when he finished second behind According To Pete in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock.
Although he fell prior to the Peter Marsh, in the Tommy Whittle Chase, Pearlysteps appeared poised for a winning run until he came to grief at the last.
Those two encouraging efforts alone make him an interesting proposition on his first outing for 323 days, especially as the handicapper has him now rated at 138.
Daly does well with this sort of animal, and can be trusted to have him cherry-ripe for the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Graduation Chase over three miles.
Frontier Spirit should find the level of competition more to his liking in the Bathwick Tyres Barnstaple Handicap Chase than at Cheltenham last time.
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old sets a decent standard over fences, as illustrated by his easy 18-length victory in a small race at Ffos Las on Boxing Day.
His limitations were exposed in a Grade Three on Cheltenham Trials Day, though, as he was never a factor behind Katenko.
Frontier Spirit must carry top weight at Warwick, but he has the pick of the form in what looks an average encounter.
He should still have something to bring to the table off a mark of 135.
Just A Par should also hit the ground running on his British debut in the Bathwick Tyres "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
This six-year-old looks another promising recruit for Paul Nicholls judged by his stout form in Ireland, where he won a point-to-point before trouncing a strong field on his hurdling bow at Punchestown.
Just A Par holds two entries at the Cheltenham Festival and will need a big show here to book his place on the Ditcheat bandwagon in March.
Although there is nothing to set too many pulses racing at Southwell, Hazard Warning can overcome a hefty rise in the weights following a determined Wolverhampton success in the Get The Inside Track At bookmakers.co.uk Handicap.