The Tolworth Hurdle is a good pointer to some of the novice events at the Cheltenham Festival and has often been a stepping stone to greater things over the years.
The contest is run at Sandown Park over a distance of 2 miles and 110 yards with a generous first prize of almost £30,000
The race was abandoned in 2009 & 2010 and in 2014 was rescheduled to Kempton.
Recent winners of the Tolworth include Finian’s Oscar, Yorkhill and L’ami Serge and back in the day, even Desert Orchid won it.
Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have pretty much monopolised the race in recent years, with Nicholls winning the race on four occasions since 2000, while Henderson has saddled the winner four times in the last seven years.
Two miles on soft ground should suit the Warren Greatrex trained six-year-old and the form of his Cheltenham win looks solid with the likes of Lalor in behind him.
Western Ryder, who was fifth in the Champion Bumper last term, is a general 20/1 chance for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and also 20/1 for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.
Whatswrongwithyou looks to be the stable third-string here but it would be very dangerous to dismiss him out of hand.
Although his future appears to be over the larger obstacles this point-to-point and bumper winner has schooled well over the smaller obstacles at home and went well on his first appearance of the season at Sandown.
Two wins from two starts already this season and probably a horse on the upgrade. A winner on soft ground on the flat, the Gary Moore trained four-year-old should see the youngster in good stead for predicted going on Saturday.
He runs here in preference to the Future Champions Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow.
We Have A Dream
Nicky Henderson’s We Have A Dream is the 11/10 favourite for the feature hurdle race at Chepstow on Saturday but there has been sustained support all week for him in the Tolworth.
Winner of the Summit Juvenile Hurdle last time out the four-year-old looks like another exciting prospect for his owners.
The Russian Doyen
The Russian Doyen comes into the race on the back of a win at Exeter in December.
The runner-up in that race has since won but it remains to be seen whether Colin Tizzard’s gelding has the necessary class to take this feature.
Summerville Boy was second to the highly regarded Slate House at Cheltenham this season then was well held on his return to the venue by Western Ryder.
Tom George's runner will need to step up considerably on those two defeats to figure here.
Won an Irish point-to-point race at Belclare some 272 days ago and comes into the race a total unknown quantity.
It would come as a major shock if this horse can win a race of this magnitude on its British debut.
Hailing from the Amy Murphy yard, this progressive gelding easily beat Al Shahir at Wetherby first time up in the soft ground before going on to beat Irish Prophecy at Doncaster last month.
Talked about as a potential Supreme Novices’ Hurdle contender, Murphy will be keeping a close eye on the weather this weekend before committing him to run.
Mont Des Avaloirs
The Paul Nicholls trained Mont Des Avaloirs fell on his hurdles debut at Wincanton in November with the race at this mercy. That mishap was firmly put behind him next time up as he scored by three lengths over Midnight Shadow at Aintree in December.
This is a step up again in class but his trainer is no stranger to landing this trophy.
Third in last season's Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson's runner has won each of his two starts over hurdles, most recently scoring in the Grade Two Supreme Trial at Ascot.
However at the time of writing this preview news is filtering through that Claimantakinforgan appears to be an increasingly unlikely runner in the Tolworth Hurdle with Henderson reluctant to run his novice on heavy ground.
Claimantakinforgan is currently the 8/1 clear favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
With the participation of some of the runners in doubt it will probably be more prudent to save your money until Saturday morning until the final field is decided.
Unfortunately one of the pitfalls of ante-post punting in the depths of winter is that race conditions and a variety of other circumstances often conspire against us.
Claimantakinforgan is the most likely winner of the race should he line up, but if he does not then the form choice has to be Western Ryder.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*