Preview of the Dovecote Novices' Hurdle and Free Racing Tips – With only two and a half weeks until the Cheltenham Festival, this weekend represents one of the final opportunities for horses to get a run before March. The Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle is seen as one of the final Supreme Novice’ Hurdle trails, and leading hopes for that race – Irving and First Mohican, are set to clash in this race on Saturday. Here are my thoughts and best bet!
Paul Nicholls’ hope Irving (6/5 William Hill) is still unbeaten over hurdles, and will be looking claim his fourth win this season and to continue his perfect preparation for the Festival. He was last seen winning the Mittie Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot in December and is a horse that has plenty of potential. His participation in this Grade 2 contest had looked in some doubt earlier in the week due to the testing conditions, (he was taken out of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury due to the going), however Nicholls has opted to go for the valuable prize, and although the horse doesn't want ground too testing, you get the impression that his trainer thinks that he needs another run before Cheltenham.
Irving’s main rival looks to be the former Sir Henry Cecil trained First Mohican (2/1 BetVictor). He was a very useful performer on the flat who coped well with testing ground. He won on his hurdles debut at Doncaster earlier this month for his new trainer Alan King, and there is no doubt he will have improved for the run and experience. He has yet to prove he has the class of the favourite and he didn't look completely straightforward at Doncaster with a slightly awkward head carriage, but he has lots of ability. There is plenty of hype around the Alan King horse at the moment but this will be the acid test of his credentials ahead of the Festival. King’s horses seem to be right back in form now too, which is promising for all those connected with this horse.
Dubai Prince (20/1 Stan James) is another runner in the race who has plenty of class, and trainer John Ferguson seems pretty shrewd when it comes to Novice Hurdlers. He has had three starts over hurdles this season, after finishing his flat career in August. A winner at Leicester first time out, he pulled up next time out and finished third on this latest run, against Pearl Castle (a leading Triumph hurdle fancy). A race of this class represents a big step up and I think he may only be good enough to place.
You can never discount a JP McManus runner on the weekend when the champ AP McCoy is on board, and in this race CUP FINAL (8/1 William Hill) represents this formidable pairing. He has only run twice in his career, once last season, and once this season when finishing runner up to Irving at Taunton in November. He is a progressive type who would have come on leaps and bounds from the race, as he was probably still green and inexperienced. After the race it emerged that the horse returned with a badly cut leg, which will not have helped his cause. This jockey and trainer combo rarely have a bad run, and with a horse that is still improving, they look to have a strong chance with this five year-old.
Amore Alato (8/1 Stan James) and German Calling (33/1 BetVictor) are two intriguing runners, both of whom have decent reliable form. Amore Alato’s trainer is in a rich vein of form at the moment and, like Venetia Williams, seems to go well when the ground is testing. This horse however, has shown his better form on better ground, when he finished third behind the Paul Nicholls trained Lac Fonatana on heavy ground. The Charlie Longsdon trained Germany Calling hasn’t run since October, when he also finished behind Lac Fontana at Cheltenham. He is untested on this ground which is a definite concern. To reintroduce him in such high quality company is interesting but the difficulty of this race should prove too much and he could well be one to watch for next season if remaining a novice.
Making up the seven runners is another JP McManus horse Vaihau (25/1 William Hill), who is unraced. This race looks likely to be an education and he is best watched for the moment.
With the quality of runners entered, I can see this developing into a very close contest. Almost the whole field are in with a chance and it has been really difficult to find the winner. In the end I have opted for CUP FINAL who could well have the race set up for him. I can see AP MCCoy riding a patient ride, sitting in behind the market leaders and allowing them to fight it out between them. He is a horse on the up with plenty of potential, so here’s hoping he can prevail in the final few strides.
CUP FINAL (WIN) (8/1 William Hill)
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