On Saturday the first Grade 1 contest of 2016 in the UK, takes place at Sandown Park, as the 32Red Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle takes place over two miles.
This significant contest has been won in the past by top class horses including the likes of Grand Canyon, Western Rose, Broadsword, Desert Orchid, Forest Sun, Monsignor, French Holly, Behrajan and last year by Yorkhill.
Capitaine was a useful bumper horse, winning once and finishing second in his other start, but looked a real star in the making last time out over hurdles. This scopey grey 5 year old was a runaway winner of a Wincanton novice hurdle in early November, beating Tell The Tale by 20 lengths. Paul Nicholls then sent him up to Haydock Park for a Listed contest later that month, where he ran well to finish 2 ¼ lengths second of 5 to Tahira. He then stepped up in class for the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot in mid-December, really putting his rivals to the sword and beating Captain Forez by 3 ½ lengths. He looks very exciting and probably sets the standard here.
Celestial Path is a hugely interesting recruit from the flat, who makes his hurdles debut in Grade 1 company. Formerly trained by Sir Mark Prescott, this 5 year old ran third to Elm Park in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy in 2014 and the following spring was not disgraced when finishing fifth to Gleneagles in the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas. He lost his form somewhat after that run and makes his debut here for David Pipe.
Chalonnial is a hard horse to assess, having won a Wincanton bumper last February, before running a tailed of third of 4 in a Listed bumper race at Limerick in April. The Harry Fry trained 5 year old was not seen out again until making a winning introduction over hurdles, beating Santo De Lune by 2 ¾ lengths at Bangor just before Christmas. This is a big step up in class.
Charlemar comes into this contest on a really impressive winning streak but takes a big step up in class now. The Harry Whittington trained 5 year old was second in a bumper in France before landing his second race there in early May. He then joined Whittington and made a winning debut over hurdles with a ¾ of a length defeat of Orchard Park in a Chepstow maiden hurdle in early November. A month later he completed his hat-trick of wins when a 4 ½ lengths victory over Minotaur at Aintree.
Finian’s Oscar comes into this contest unbeaten in two starts and bids to add further lustre to an amazing season for Colin Tizzard. The 5 year old won a point to point in Ireland in late October before joining Tizzard and he made a winning debut over hurdles at Hereford, just before Christmas, beating Acting Lass by 7 lengths. This is a big step up in grade.
Global Stage hails from a point to point background, where he was twice a faller before winning in January of last year. The 6 year old joined Fergal O’Brien and ran second to Claimantakinforgan in a Haydock Park bumper in November. He now makes his hurdling debut and faces a tough task in this class.