West Wizard bids to get career back on track at Kempton
All eyes will be on the highly-touted West Wizard as he bids to get his career back on track in the novices’ hurdle which opens proceedings on a cracking card at Kempton today (12.35).
The Nicky Henderson trained gelding looked the real deal when making a winning debut in a bumper at the venue back in March 2013, travelling strongly throughout before taking up the running on the bit two from home and sauntering six lengths clear.
The five-year-old won with any amount in hand, and it was a performance which saw him installed as ante post favourite for last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival before he had even jumped a hurdle in public.
However things didn’t go to plan on his debut over the obstacles when the son of King’s Theatre got turned over at 1/6 and beaten five lengths into second by Sgt Reckless over course and distance last November.
West Wizard took a very keen hold and found disappointingly little when asked to chase down the leader between the final two flights by Barry Geraghty.
To me the West Wizard was clearly not right, and after a few niggling injuries connections decided not to run him again to preserve his novice status for this season.
That looks a shrewd move, as judged on his bumper success West Wizard has the potential to be anything.
Coral currently make West Wizard a 16/1 shot for the 2015 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next March, and his handler has a good record in the contest.
Henderson has won the race twice, with River Ceiriog in 1996 and Flown in 1992, and has endured a frustrating bout of seconditis in the last four runnings with Spirit Son, Darlan, My Tent Or Yours and Josses Hill all finding one too good on the day.
If West Wizard is to go one better than that quartet then he ought to be winning this despite and absence of 364 days to overcome.
West Wizard does face a couple of race fit and potentially useful rivals in the shape of Alphabet Bay and in particular Arzal, but it will be bitterly disappointing if the Dai Walters owned gelding doesn’t prove classy enough to come through the test with flying colours enroute to much better things.