JUMP racing is back! We got Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) to give us his best bets from Saturday's Channel 4 racing.
1.30 Wincanton | Channel 4
The Grade 2 Rising Stars Novice Chase has attracted a field of seven but I'm not sure how strong a race this is. All of these runners look like they will improve for the switch to chasing but I'm not convinced this will take much winning.
Arpege D'Alene is the 5/4 (Bet365) favourite and I make him a confident selection. He‘s only had four starts in his brief career where he has won twice. He makes his chase debut here and it is clear that his powerful connections expect him to come in to his own over the larger obstacles.
He beat a very useful horse in Tea For Two on his final outing and that form stands out against these rivals. While I'm not saying that his rivals are poor, I believe they lack the scope of the Paul Nichols runner and he is the only contender in the line-up that I'd expect to be seen at the major festivals in the spring.
Paul Nichols has a fantastic record in this race and I expect that to continue here with Arpege D'Alene, who I am quite excited about this season.
2.30 Aintree | Channel 4
A five-runner two mile four furlong hurdle race that has only attracted five runners but this is without doubt the most interesting race of the day.
We have a former Gold Cup winner, a horse who won a Grade 1 hurdle when last seen and, in Simonsig, a horse, who when last seen 900 days ago, looked like he was on course for the very top.
But none of these horses come in to this race with a prep or any form guarantee, so where's the betting angle?
Bobs Worth won the 2013 Gold Cup but that race seemed to leave a mark on him and he's never really been the same since. He has won a Lexus chase since, but his form has gradually tailed off since and as a dour stayer, I doubt he will be rejuvenated by a drop in trip and return to hurdles. So he's readily opposed.
Simonsig makes his long awaited comeback since winning the Arkle in 2013 and I cannot wait to see him. His form is vastly superior to his rivals, and though his future later in the season is likely to be over bigger obstacles, he would win this easily if fully fit and in the same form he was last seen.
However there are far too many question marks around Simonsig and this is a tough enough a race to put a line through him here. I want him to win, and this is one of those rare occasions that I will be backing one but almost cheering on another.
This race looks between the John Ferguson pair Commissioned and Purple Bay. Commissioned brings race fitness to the table and in a renewel where all his rivals are returning from substantial breaks, that is a massive advantage. His form is slightly below his rivals and he was pulled up last time ,which is a concern. But his fitness makes him the horse to beat.
However, he may struggle to beat his stablemate Purple Bay, who looks a cut above him and I expect to make a winning return here despite his absence. He was last seen chasing home Faugheen in the Christmas hurdle last season, and though he didn't put the winner under any real pressure that day, he finished ahead of some decent horses and looks a solid hurdler.
Ferguson has been in great form this year and he is one of the best around at having a horse ready first time out. Unless the Simonsig of 2013 turns up, I make Purple Bay a confident selection at at 13/8 with Stan James.
3.15 Wincanton | Channel 4
The Elite Hurdle over 2 miles is always a good race and this is an interesting renewal. The market is dominated by two four-year-old hurdlers, and despite their poor record in this race, they look the ones to beat. But I'm against them.
Zarib was a decent juvenile hurdler last season without quite making it to the top level, but he is progressive and looks to have a good future ahead of him. He gets a good racing weight and looks primed to run a big race. But this represents a step up in class and I'm not backing him on Saturday.
All Yours is a much more interesting four-year-old and is the horse to beat for me. Lightly raced, he was last seen winning a Grade 1 at Aintree and looks like a horse on the up.
He improved dramatically with every start last season and if he can continue that progression, he will have a massive season. His stable have a great record in this race and I expect him to be involved in the finish but I'm actually backing one of his rivals instead.
I'm going to take a chance on an old favourite of mine in Melodic Rendezvous. He's nine now, but he's only had 19 career starts and I wouldn't write him off just yet.
He went chasing last season and despite a promising start he never quite made it to the top level and it's no surprise to see him return to hurdles. He has a cracking record, is fresh and if fully tuned up will run a massive race. I feel he is over priced at 9/1 (Bet365) and I will be backing him accordingly.
1.30 Wincanton – Arpege D'Alene (5/4 Bet365)
2.30 Aintree – Purple Bay (13/8 Stan James)
3.15 Wincanton – Melodic Rendezvous (9/1 Bet365)
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