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The Notebook: Great Try gives form boost to Betfair Hurdle candidate

| 06.02.2015

The start of the week saw no let up from the elements, with racing fans having to make do with an all-weather feast from Monday to Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean there was an absence of talking points.

From Southwell, to Chelmsford to Bangor there was plenty to mull over up and down the country as we look back at the main stories of the week.

Conditions perfect again for Gabrial the Duke

With a place-rate of 88% in races between 1m2f and 1m4f on the all-weather, compared to one of 16% elsewhere it’s pretty clear what Gabrial The Duke needs to be seen at his best.

That was evident when Dr Marwan Koukash’s five-year-old bolted up in Southwell’s 1m4f handicap on Monday.

It wasn’t looking good early on when jockey Tony Hamilton had to issue a couple of reminders, but approaching two-out there was only one winner, as the Richard Fahey-trained gelding trounced the field by 12l, a further 6l and 8l back to third and fourth.

Merdon king of the Castle

Time is running out for horses to earn a fast-track qualification for the AW Three-Year-Old Sprint Championship on Finals day at Easter, but one that will have no such worry is Merdon Castle.

David Elsworth’s charge ran Group 2 Railway Stakes winner Kool Kompany to within ½l on turf last season but seems more at home on synthetics.

Sent off the 7/2 second-favourite for the 5f contest at Chelmsford, Liam Keniry’s mount made up for a slow start grinding out a hard fought victory by a neck and booked his spot in the £150,000 showpiece at Lingfield.

It must run in the family

As a half-sister to the dual Group 2 winning sprinter Spirit Quartz as well as Epsom Dash victor Caspian Prince, much was expected on British debut for Crystal Quartz.

She hadn’t quite hit the heights of her siblings in France, failing to register a win, but a switch to Chelmsford’s polytrack seems to have been the making of the four-year-old filly.

Sent off the 2/7 favourite, David Evans’ charge led every yard of the race and quickened up nicely in the home straight to pull away well.

Bigger things can be expected of her.

Wizard powerless once again

After being beaten at odds of 1/6 and 2/9, many saw Friday’s novices’ hurdle at Kempton as the perfect opportunity for West Wizard to get off the mark.

However they didn’t account for a striking performance from £260,000 purchase Minella Rocco.

Tony McCoy’s mount did what the 4/5 hotpot didn’t and quickened up nicely to take the champ onto win number 198 for the season.

That win also confirmed the great form of Jonjo O’Neill, the Jackdaw’s Castle handler previous racking up a hat-trick on Thursday.


Ballyboley gets a Betfair boost

With an astronomically competitive Betfair Hurdle set to grace Newbury on Saturday, it will be tricky to pick one out to go with, but on the eve of the race Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballybolley has got a nice form boost.

Paul Nicholl’s Great Try was beaten 3¾l by the aforementioned horse back in December, but got back to winning ways on Friday at Bangor in commanding fashion.

The winning distance may have been little more than 2l, but the fact that he had the 131 rated L’Aigle Royal 17l back in third, will be of great interested to Ballybolley backers.

A 25/1 shot for the weekend’s big handicap hurdle, he goes off the same mark, one that now looks very defiable.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Ben Stones

Ladbrokes News’ equine expert, Ben likes nothing more than studying the form to pick out a winner or two for our readers. A Journalism and Media Studies graduate from the University of Winchester, Ben has previously written for a number of football and racing blogs and websites, as well as contributing to the sports pages of his home-town newspaper.