Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to Sunday's quality action with recommended bets at Sandown and Ffos Las, including the popular Houblon Des Obeaux.
There are few more enticing prospects at this stage of the National Hunt season than high-class, second-season chasers returning to the fold with the promise of untold improvement.
Sunday's 188Bet Future Stars Intermediate Chase at Sandown should make for unmissable viewing on that front with the magnificently gifted and ever-so-slightly quirky antepost King George favourite Might Bite among the four declared runners.
Might Bite was beaten first time out this time last year and he must give 6lb to a horse officially rated 'only' 9lb his inferior in Label Des Obeaux, but that's just about where it stops when it comes to constructing any kind of case against the RSA Chase and Mildmay winner.
Paul Nicholls saddles the two others in the field and the continually underestimated Frodon may ultimately be the one to get closest to Nicky Henderson's star if stripping fitter for his Newton Abbot spin, as one might expect, but the odds-on favourite should be different class if staying on all fours.
There's no desire to part with any cash in the Listed feature but the Rugby Betting At 188Bet Novices' Limited Handicap Chase has a great shape to it and JAMESON (9/2 General) looks rock solid on his second start for Nigel Twiston-Davies and his first in a handicap.
Twister should know exactly where he stands with the Dai Walters-owned gelding as he hammered the yard's Ballyarthur over two and a half miles at Ffos Last back in April when in the care of Henderson, and there was tons to like about his recent reappearance run when second to the 157-rated West Approach on chasing debut. Horses rated 144, 140 and 134 finished 10 lengths and more behind the runner-up.
He jumped big and bold at the head of affairs before just weakening late on and it's expected to have tightened him up physically.
The deep ground also appeared to catch him out slightly and despite no return yet of the hood he wore over timber for his previous handler, dropping back a furlong in trip on a better surface is bound to play to his strengths.
It's a warm race of its type with Chalonnial, Touch Kick and Bally Gilbert - who has had his wind tinkered with and is seemingly made for fences - both highly respected, but the prep run puts Jameson in the box seat fitness-wise, we already know how well he can jump and while a mark of 129 isn't exactly a gift, it looks lenient enough based on that comeback run in Wales.
HOUBLON DES OBEAUX gets to race off a career-low chase mark on his first outing in the veteran ranks (188Bet.co.uk Veterans' Handicap Chase) and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him really enjoy himself in this company.
On his seasonal return last December he finished third to Native River in the Welsh National and there was nothing wrong with four subsequent outings either including when 10th in the National off a mark of 149.
Dropping him to 141 following the year he had last time strikes as a rare act of kindness from the assessor, and with the Venetia Williams yard back among the winners, Houblon Des Obeaux is not to be missed at 7/1 (bet365).
If you're into trainers called Williams, then look no further than the Bayliss Metals Handicap Chase at Ffos Las, in which Venetia, Evan, Nick and Christian all represent the clan.
It's not a bad little race, and nor is the Ethical Power Handicap Hurdle which follows at the same venue, in which ACT NOW (5/1 bet365) looks worth chancing on her seasonal reappearance.
Her trainer Anthony Honeyball has quite a tidy course record in South West Wales, sending out 12 winners from 65 runners over the last five seasons, and he's had two comeback winners already this week at Fontwell, which bodes well for Act Now.
She likes nothing more than a battle in the mud and produced a career-best effort when winning over the extended three miles, one furlong at Hereford when last seen in March.
A 7lb rise obviously demands a bit more here but she's basically unexposed in handicap hurdles, despite her age, and could be very hard to catch out in front under a feather weight if ready to rock on her return, as the stable form indicates she might.
Recommended bets: Sunday racing
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Posted at 1700 on 11/11/17