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Newbury Preview: Saphir can shine on chasing debut

Saphir Du Rheu makes his eagerly awaited debut over fences in a cracking 2m 4f novices’ chase at Newbury today (2.05) and is strongly fancied to make it a winning one.

The Paul Nicholls trained gelding showed ultra progressive form over hurdles last season when winning three of his six starts.

After bolting up by eight lengths in a hot 16-runner handicap at Sandown off a mark of 130, the five-year-old followed up in facile fashion in the valuable Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton before going on to complete a hat-trick in the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las.

Saphir Du Rheu then found the race coming too quickly when last seen in action, and finished just fourth in the National Spirit at Fontwell when sent off the 2/5 favourite.

That run is best forgotten, and the son of Al Namix has the potential to go to the very top as a chaser.

The fact that connections are pitching Saphir Du Rheu straight into Grade 2 company shows how highly he is regarded, and his hurdles rating of 165 is 18lb higher than main market rivals Conyegree and Dell’ Arca.

If Saphir can translate that form to the larger obstacles, he is going to be very tough to beat granted a clear round.

Coral currently go 16/1 about Saphir Du Rheu winning the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next March, and that could look big if, as expected, he comes through this initial test with flying colours.

In the 2m 4f handicap chase (2.40), Cantlow looks weighted to make a bold bid to win the race for a second year in succession.

The Paul Webber trained gelding started last season in good heart, scoring in style in this contest when readily beating Easter Meteor by 1 1/4 lengths off a mark of 140.

This nine-year-old backed that up with an excellent two-length second of 13 to Double Ross in competitive affair at Cheltenham off 148.

Cantlow was attempting to give the now 159-rated winner 15lb, and that effort makes him a huge player in this off 2lb lower.

Although the son of Kayf Tarta he has failed to trouble the judge in five subsequent starts, they have all been in class 1 contests and the drop back down to class 5 company will suit.

Cantlow is also 1-1 at this venue, and off just 6lb higher than when landing the spoils 12 months ago looks nicely weighted on the pick of his form.

Selections:
12.25: Karezak
12.55: Olympian Boy
1.30: Unique De Cotte
2.05: Saphir Du Rheu (NAP)
2.40: Cantlow (NB)
3.15: Tea For Two
3.45: Days Of Heaven