Grade 2 insight: 'We always felt he was very smart, but we couldn't train him'
Friday: 2.25 Sandown
Ballymore Winter Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2) | 2m4f | 4yo+ | ITV4/RTV
There will be plenty who are already in the Christmas spirit, but if you're a racing fan, nothing signals the start of the holiday period more than Sandown at the beginning of December.
If the King George is the Gold Cup's little brother then the Tingle Creek can be considered the Champion Chase's younger sibling, with all four among the best chases of the British season.
The feast is still to come, but we are served some tasty hors d'oeuvres on Friday and terrestrial viewers are set for a pre-Christmas treat as ITV4 screens seven races.
A dry week and the prospect of good ground has contributed to a small field for the feature Grade 2 novice hurdle, but it is a race that still throws up stars despite often attracting few runners.
See More Business, Barton, Coolnagorna, Inglis Drever and Neptune Collonges were among the stellar names on the trophy in the 90s and 2000s, and two of those were trained by Paul Nicholls. He also hit the target with Enrilo two years ago, and the 12-time champion trainer often runs one of his best here.
Nicholls' two best winners, subsequent Gold Cup scorer See More Business and Grand National hero Neptune Collonges, both won novice hurdles at Chepstow's meeting at the start of November, and Brave Kingdom ran out an emphatic winner at the same fixture last month.
Brave Kingdom is not bred for a Gold Cup or a Grand National. He is a half-brother to a 5f two-year-old winner out of a dam who won over the same trip at two. However, his sire Brave Mansonnien gets jumpers, and Brave Kingdom's stablemate Bravemansgame is among them.
Fair Frontieres looks a more likely type on pedigree. His dam won a point-to-point, and he is already better than his mother, having bolted up by 41 lengths at Worcester on debut for Kim Bailey.
That race fell apart behind him, but Fair Frontieres could not have won any easier and jumped to the right on a left-handed track. The move to a clockwise circuit could bring improvement.
Lossiemouth has achieved the best form on Racing Post Ratings, following two wins in handicap company. Three winners in four years from 2013-16 won this after competing in handicaps and Killala Quay was the best of the trio. He achieved an RPR of 147 in 2013.
Harper's Brook and Viva Lavilla, who both come here after winning their only start over hurdles, complete the line-up, but they have upwards of 9lb to find with the rest on RPRs.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway
Lacey's handicap woe: 'To give a horse 13lb is outrageous'
Lossiemouth has an intriguing profile for this race following two handicap wins under 7lb conditional Thomas Doggrell but, while he is looking forward to having a crack at Graded company, trainer Tom Lacey is far from happy with what he sees as the handicapper forcing his hand with a horse who has had his problems.
"Visually he's looked very good and the handicapper took a pretty dim view, putting him up 13lb," said Lacey. "Where do you go? You may as well have a go at a nice prize and see where you are.
"He looked good at Ffos Las, but I think the race fell apart behind him a bit. You can quite often get extended winning distances there."
A second-season novice over hurdles, Lossiemouth began with a win at Ascot off 117 before putting ten lengths on his rivals at Ffos Las, a success that elicited the rise from 123 to 136.
Lacey said: "We always thought Lossiemouth was a very nice horse, but he's had terrible feet and it's taken us a year to basically reshape them. He was in low-grade pain all last year. We always felt he was very smart, but we couldn't train him.
"He started the season on a nice mark and it's basically been wrecked. To give a horse 13lb is outrageous – I think it should be capped. You don't run a horse for the first time in blinkers when you think you've got loads up your sleeve."
What they say
Paul Nicholls, trainer of Brave Kingdom
He takes plenty of work and is in good shape – I saw him school yesterday. He was ready for Chepstow and he's ready again for this. It's an interesting race for him.
Kim Bailey, trainer of Fair Frontieres
It's very hard to work out what the Worcester form is like, but all the runners here are in the same situation, as novices that we don't really know what they're like. You'd have to say he was very impressive when he won and his Irish form suggests he's got ability. I think he wants soft ground and the reason why we've gone here is that it's a stiffer track. Dropping back in trip might be a problem, I don't know. It's a big step up and I'll find out, as we all will, what the horse is like.
Dan Skelton, trainer of Viva Lavilla
I'm really looking forward to running him again. I think he stays the trip well and he's a strong five-year-old. This will tell us where we go for the rest of the season.
Reporting by Scott Burton
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