Hobbs Can Be A Hero
Minehead handler the man to follow at Sandown
By Ian Ogg. Last Updated: 31/01/12 4:01pm
Philip Hobbs: The man to have on your side
Nick Williams came close to landing last season's renewal of the Betfred and Levy Board Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown with Alfie Spinner and his Lanzarote winner Swincombe Flame has been installed at the head of the market.
There should be a good deal more to come from the well-built mare who has only been raised by 6lbs for that Kempton win, her third in four starts over hurdles, and she'll be strongly fancied to go one better than her stablemate.
Alfie Spinner was beaten a length and a half by Kilcrea Kim who is trained by Philip Hobbs and the Minehead handler is a man to have on your side in this race along with fellow Somerset trainer Paul Nicholls.
Hobbs has run just six horses in the last 11 renewals of this race and they have finished first, fourth, first, second, second and last at 11-2, 25-1, 13-2, 7-1, 4-1 fav and 16-1 while Nicholls has won three of the last five renewals.
Nicholls is able to control the weights with Crack Away Jack second in the handicap behind David Pipe's Ashkazar and it's no great surprise to see the unexposed Sonofvic, well-backed to win a Grade Two Novice Chase at Cheltenham last time, prominent in the ante-post market.
In contrast, Hobbs wouldn't complain if the weights were to rise as all three of his runners will have to race from out of the handicap as things stand.
The gambled on Doncaster winner Big Easy has been raised 13lbs and is set to take his chance at Leicester on Wednesday under a penalty while So Fine could well improve significantly for the longer trip although it's a worry that he proved disappointing on his first encounter with soft ground last time.
There are no such concerns for Volador who ran well until a lack of race fitness told at Warwick in a race won by Thehillofuisneach on his first start since April 2010.
He's entitled to come on for that perfectly satisfactory outing which was the only occasion in his hurdling career that he has failed to finish in the money and it should have put the eight year old spot on for Saturday's race.
Hobbs used the Warwick contest as a prep for last year's fourth County Zen (who had a similar profile to Volador) and it's well worth taking an each-way chance with the son of Old Vic - who can be backed at up to 20-1 - with Hobbs having a good line on the current favourite through Featherbed Lane.
Fore Of The Market
Of those to the fore of the market, there could easily be more to come from the likes of Thehillofuisneach, Decoy, The Pier and Knock A Hand but it's well worth firing another each-way dart at Eastlake who is generally available at 16-1.
He was disappointingly turned over on his handicap bow last April having won his first two starts over hurdles and was beaten over 30 lengths behind Swincombe Flame on his only subsequent run.
There is nothing too encouraging in that but Jonjo O'Neill's run was travelling was well as anything turning into the straight at Kempton but stumbled on that turn and weakened quickly thereafter.
The six year old was perfectly entitled to need that first start since October 2011 and is also entitled to have returned a stronger horse with the benefit of another winter on his back.
A fair bit has to be taken on trust but it would be no great surprise to see the J P McManus owned gelding improve significantly on the form of his seasonal reappearance.
0.5 pts each-way on Eastlake and Volador at the best available prices.