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WALSH HAS THE WORLD AT HIS FEET; Nothing Weird about Al's chance.

Byline: TANYA STEVENSON

BOOKMAKERS will be quaking as Nicky Henderson looks to be going through a revolving door to Sandown's winner's enclosure this afternoon.

No point in waiting and he unleashes BINOCULAR (1.30) in the opener. Next up it's our first sighting of Triumph Hurdle fancy ACCORDING (2.05). He has won three of his nine races in France and arrives having been backed for Festival glory before he's even set foot on a British racecourse. All the same connections won the Triumph Hurdle last year with Zaynar and if According is half as good.

Then it's the turn of PUNCHESTOWNS (2.35). We've only seen him once over the bigger obstacles in a non-event at Newbury but at least his jumping was sound. Today's opposition are sure to put him to the test as will the Railway Fences. Punchestowns is in a different league and it should be three from three for team Henderson.

I attended the Greyhound Board of Great Britain annual Awards in London on Sunday and sat on my table was Jonathan Duffy. A very successful racehorse owner, his Master Of The Hall was an impressive winner at Newbury last Friday, then yesterday at Towcester The Thristy Bricky obliged at 5's and today he is represented by ERZEN(3.10), trained by Nicky Henderson. He was just denied by in a battling finish by Lake Legend at Kempton on Boxing Day.

Nicky Richards seldom sends runners to Sandown. The record of northern runners is not great but this fellow is a sleeping giant and if he is a silly double-figure price he is worth a saver.

Kalahari King makes his long anticipated return from a 287-day layoff in the Blue Square Handicap Chase. This normally goes to a classy type with eight of the last ten winners carrying 11-2 or more. Kalahari King has never finished out of the first two in ten starts over fences, including a win in the John Smith's Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree.

Ferdy Murphy's star chaser has had a few problems and he has been open to the fact Kalahari will improve for the run. Top weight, softish ground and question of fitness are all reasons why he is as big as 10-1. All of the last ten winners have been 10-1 or shorter.

The favourite is Free World, followed by last year's winner and stable companion I'msingingtheblues, with Ruby Walsh opting for the former. Free World has only had seven chase races to date, arguably his best effort was his latest when second to French Opera. New riding tactics had been employed as FreeWorld used to lead, use up all his petrol then fade. At Cheltenham he was held up, conserved energy and ran on with a strong finish. Ruby will be keen to continue to educate FreeWorld, who is only six and may still have improvement. I may be wrong but I have my doubts surrounding his conviction in a battle. I'msingingtheblues comes here in search of consecutive victories in the contest. Although he hasn't been close to winning since andhas eleven lengths to find with Kalahari King on Arkle running, he did put in a good third to Petit Robin at Kempton last time. Proven better on a flatter track such as Doncaster he has to be part of considerations.

Leo's Lucky Star is high up in the betting, yet his achievements are very light. His victory last time at Warwick has been devalued by the second's failure to run well at the same course on Tuesday.

Giles Hawkins is one of my favourite young jockeys, his seven pound claim is an added bonus, which Colin Tizzard will be trying to make the most of with Oiseau De Nuit. Giles has already struck up a rapport with the horse, partnering him to an emphatic success at Ffos Las with Moon Over Miami seven lengths behind.

Tom George must be a wits end with Tartak, if you knew he would have a trouble free run without making a calamitous error at his fences you'd fill your boots. The horse is his own undoing. This week's experiment is to drop him down in trip to two miles. If I was Sam Thomas I'd try and make all, out of harm's way and if he got into a rhythm, nothing could pick him up.

Ignore Tarotino's last run and he'd be one of the favourites, and in all probability it is right to forgive him as Alan King had a torrid time at the start of the season but now the winners are flowing. He had to withdraw ante-post favourite Oh Crick, and Tarotino may run well enough but seems like an after thought.

Lennon was runner-up in this in 2008 but due to injury was off the track from April 2008 until theVictor Chandler Chase a couple of weeks ago. His return wasn't a disaster as carrying level weights he was 27 lengths behind Twist Magic. I worry about his fitness and probable bounce factor. Pepsyrock has started favourite on his last six races and last time out was his only bad run in that mix. However It was his seasonal reappearance which was preceded by a seven month layoff. Ground is crucial with this fellow as ideally he doesn't want any sign of soft in the description.

In complete contrast Doctor David can handle any surface though to date he has found the transition from top novice to established chaser beyond him. Doncaster might bring the best out of him as he finished second in this last year. Andrew Thornton renews the partnership and his style of riding is the one that suits the horse best. His my each-way selection at a big price, but my idea of the winner is FREE WORLD (3.25) in the hope Ruby can negotiate the fences and nurse the horse home with enough energy up his sleeve to hold off challengers.

Wetherby hold a tremendously competitive card and I fancy WEIRD AL (2.50)to confirm his superiority over Knockara Beau. Before that FRANKIE FIGG (2.20) looks the option in the handicap chase. He was treating the spruce fences at Aintree with contempt until he got too cheeky and fell four out.

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RUBY WALSH: Rides another big race fav
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 6, 2010
Words:1052
Previous Article:NIC'S BRAVE NEW WORLD; Ruby's new tactics control Free spirit.
Next Article:BOOKIES' VIEW.


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