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Horse Rasing: Preacher Boy has a prayer.

Byline: Moscrop

IT'S good to see Ron Hodges have a jumper like Preacher Boy who is talented enough to take to the bigger venues.

You can only play the game successfully by running horses wherever they are presented with the best opportunity of winning and the Somerset trainer largely concentrates on meetings in the West Country.

However, his winning pointer Preacher Boy has a chase rating of 133 which means that he is not out of place in better company and he can prove that point by landing the Handicap Chase at Sandown today.

The eight-year-old hasn't many miles on the clock and is relatively unexposed. His two successes last season came at Wincanton where he ran a fine race on his return from a 213-day break when chasing home Parsons Legacy in November.

His only other appearance since was in the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Newbury and, having been up with the leaders for most of the way, stayed on at the same pace as the two principals pulled clear of him from the third last.

However, he reversed Wincanton form with Parsons Legacy on 5lb better terms and, judged on this display, is making up into a decent staying chaser.

Preacher Boy runs off the same mark here with the added bonus of having champion jockey Tony McCoy in the plate and the combination look to have outstanding claims.

Latimer's Place has been raised 9lb for an easy victory at Newbury but still enters the reckoning. Avita has completed a hat-trick since her return though the longer trip is a concern, while Grattan Lodge is well treated again after a spell in the doldrums.

While Howard Johnson's grey hinted of a revival in fortunes on his seasonal reappearance, his subsequent two runs have been less encouraging and he needs some forgiving before he is worth a wager.

The Crook trainer saddles a more interesting contender in Astarador for the Anglo Irish Bank Tolworth Hurdle. A bumper winner, he is unbeaten over hurdles against weak opposition at Wetherby and Ayr. Still, he could only win as he pleased and, though this represents a signficicant step up in class, it's not to say he will not be equal to the task.

De Soto seems to have got over his injuries and has been transformed by the application of a tongue tie. His Kempton win was even more impressive than his first over timber and he is a major player.

As you would expect, it's a competitive race for a Grade One prize and also to be considered are My Turn Now who is on a winning spree and the less exposed Silverburn, a horse with a future.

I somehow managed to oppose Roman Ark when he returned to winning ways at Market Rasen. He has always been a favourite of mine and he is at his very best when the mud is flying. He will have conditions to suit at Haydock where he can defy a 7lb rise in the VC Handicap Chase.

Bumper scorer Scarvagh Diamond shaped well enough on her hurdle debut at Kelso for her new trainer despite never looking as though she would peg back the enterprisingly-ridden Bywell Beau.

Proven on soft ground, she will appreciate the extra half-mile of the EBF Griff's Last Mares' Only National Hunt Novices' Hurdle in which her only serious rival appears to be the Sedgefield runner-up Senora Snoopy.

Ewart celebrates great Newcastle double: Page 80


PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED: Preacher Boy is a jumper who is talented enough to take to the bigger venues.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 6, 2007
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