On Tour holds major claims in big handicap hurdle at Newbury
The big betting race of the day is the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (3.35) and the progressive On Tour looks decent each-way value in a typically wide open and ultra-competitive renewal.
The Evan Williams trained gelding won a bumper on debut on good style and ran a solid race under a penalty in a similar affair at Ludlow when an eight length runner-up to Sign Of A Victory.
The seven-year-old was attempting to give the Nicky Henderson trained winner 7lb, and now meets that rival on 18lb better terms.
Although Sign Of Victory has since developed into a very useful hurdler, On Tour has also shown progressive form over the obstacles and comes into the contest on the back of a hat-trick.
The son of Croco Rouge was particularly impressive last time out at Haydock in November when landing a decent class 2 race with far more in hand than the winning margin of 2 1/2 lengths suggests.
On Tour travelled powerfully throughout the 2m 4f contest, and after being held-up off the pace made smooth headway three from home before being produced after the last to win going away under a confident ride from Paul Moloney.
Moloney didn’t have to get serious with On Tour, and although now 7lb higher in the weights his current mark of 138 could well underestimate his ability.
To me he looks the type who is on serious upward curve and has plenty more to offer, and it looks significant that connections have resisted temptation to run him again since Haydock in order to protect his mark for this.
The are plenty of potential dangers, and the biggest could well prove to be Balgarry.
The gelding landed a juvenile hurdle in France back in 2010 before joining trainer David Pipe and bolting up on handicap debut in the mud over course and distance off a mark of 129 after 557 days on the sidelines.
The eight-year-old then ran very well to finish seventh of 28 in the Coral Cup at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival before spending another 1011 days on the sidelines and reappearing in the ultra-competitive Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot back in December.
The son of Ballingarry ran far to fresh on his first start for 1011 days, leading until two from home before weakening to finish 11th of 18 to Bayan, and showed the benefit of that outing when a solid second at Sandown last time out.
That run suggested Balgarry was coming back to his best, and with underfoot conditions fine a big run looks on the cards.