Wincanton’s Elite Hurdle is usually a key race to look forward to on their calendar and has produced some enjoyable races in recent years with Knappers Hill, Sceau Royal & Verdana Blue just some of the names on the roll of honour. Paul Nicholls normally targets this race with a useful horse and his Rubaud leads the market this year.
GG writer Dan Corbally previews this years race, before giving his expert verdict on who he expects to win.
Last year’s renewal saw KNAPPERS HILL make all and stay on strongly to hold off the challenge of Sceau Royal to give Paul Nicholls a record eighth win in the race:
Being aimed quite highly at this level, even allowing for the substandard overall quality of this contest. He does at the very least has fitness on his side, having been kept busy throughout the summer but his latest runs don’t inspire much confidence, unseating on his latest start after three midfield finishes in handicaps. Looks to be in the grip of the assessor in that field and would need this to chop up badly to stand a chance. Entered in the Greatwood Hurdle and that looks a more suitable task, even though that’ll be arguably be as tough, but at least it’s a handicap.
Gradual improvement was forthcoming with experience in bumpers for Charles O’Brien in Ireland before making the switch across to Gary Moore. Landed two Novice Hurdles, with useful animals Father Of Jazz & Master Chewy in behind before stepping up to Graded company. He disappointed on his first foray into that exalted company, coming up well short in the Dovecote (behind Rubaud), but put things right with a very promising fourth in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. Lacks a recent run but can go well fresh, he’s afforded plenty of respect. Another who holds an entry in the Greatwood Hurdle.
Already looks an improved article with a summer on his back and has been hiked up to a mark of 150 on the back of his return win at the expense of Too Friendly, First Street and Sceau Royal in a Listed Hurdle at Kempton. Harry Cobden was full of compliments for him after that and went as far as saying “I can’t think of too many horses in this country that would beat in this division in Britain apart from Constitution Hill”. He was also quoted as saying that he thinks the horse could improve again with the run under his belt. Even at a shade of odds-on he looks a very attractive betting proposition with his ceiling of ability yet to be totally determined. He has every chance of bringing them every step in this contest.
Another for Dan Skelton in here and one who has really hit form in recent weeks off a reduced mark after her transfer from the Jonjo O’Neill yard. Those wins have both come over fences and she does look up to potentially defying the handicapper once again in that sphere. She’s rated even lower in this discipline (5lbs difference), so the entry in here does pose somewhat of a question mark. She looks well up to exploiting 123 over timber and even 128 over fences, so it’s more likely, similar to others in this field, that she’ll continue in handicaps and may side-step this assignment, given that she’s entered over fences on Sunday too.
The biggest threat to Rubaud in this field and another entry for Dan Skelton. She lacks a recent run (runner-up first time up off 339 days off in 2022, winner off 374 days off in 2021) but was in top form when last seen, landing a Grade 3 Premier Handicap at Aintree and before that had taken the Lanzarote Hurdle. Following a similar trajectory to the aforementioned Rubaud, in that she’s made her mark in top-level handicaps and deserves her crack at this level. She’s only had five starts under rules and it’d be a folly to dismiss her with any confidence.
RUBAUD is impossible to get away from in here. Paul Nicholls has taken this contest eight times since 2001, including last year with Knappers Hill and looks set to add to his haul. With just four rivals to take on, the front-running improver from Ditcheat looks to have a straightforward task to lead them from start to finish, and I think he’ll do just that. Hansard deserves plenty of respect but he was well beaten by the selection at Kempton earlier this year and I don’t see a real reason why that form should reverse here.
SELECTION: RUBAUD (4/5 generally)
*Odds Correct At Time Of Writing – 4pm Tuesday 7th November*
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