Given trainer Paul Nicholls’ superb record in the King Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, Grand Sancy looks decent value to make a winning debut over the larger obstacles in the Grade 1 contest at Sandown on Saturday (13:50).
The Ditcheat handler has won the prestigious contest a record seven times, including four of the last eight renewals.
In Grand Sancy, he has a five-year-old who developed into a top class novice hurdler last season when winning four of his eight starts.
He showed a really willing attitude to take the scalp of the more experienced Sceau Royal by three-quarters of a length in the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.
It was a superb effort, especially as he was giving 2lb to the runner-up who was rated 9lb higher going into the contest.
Prior to that, Grand Sancy had run a blinder at this venue when a half-length second to Elixir De Nutz in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. The form of those races is strong.
So is his run last time out when runner-up in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle back at Wincanton when making unbeaten Champion Hurdle hope Fusil Raffles battle hard before going down by just three-quarters of a length.
If Grand Sancy can translate that level of form to fences, then he could prove difficult to beat in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase.
The fact that Nicholls is also pitching him straight into Grade 1 company for his chasing debut speaks volumes as to the high regard in which he must be held.
At 5/1 with 888Sport, Grand Sancy looks well worth a wager in a wide-open renewal.
Summerville Boy has a big shout in King Henry VIII Novices’ Chase
Summerville Boy was a hurdler of the highest order himself, so – having bounced back from a spell in the wilderness to make a winning chase debut last time out – is feared most.
This Tom George trained seven-year-old landed the 2018 Tolworth Hurdle at this venue when staying on strongly to beat Kalashnikov by four lengths.
He then enjoyed his finest hour in the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival when getting the better of that rival by a neck – despite making really bad mistakes at the final two flights.
Summerville Boy showed a terrific attitude to rally strongly under Noel Fehily and, given how the race panned out, was value for more than the winning margin.
He was talked of a potential contender for the 2019 Champion Hurdle on the back of that taking success, but the wheels really came off last season and he failed to sparkle in four starts.
Summerville Boy then underwent wind surgery and showed the benefit of it when beating First Flow by four lengths in a decent novice chase at Uttoxeter last month.
He jumped really well in the main and asserted on the run-in to beat Kim Bailey’s well-regarded sort, who has since run well to finish second to Angels Breath at Ascot.
That success has earned Summerville Boy a rating of 153, the highest in this King Henry VIII Novices’ Chase line-up, and arguably sets the standard for others to aim at.
He now has to prove that he can back up that run, and is a 100/30 shot with Unibet to follow-up.
Nube Negra makes more appeal than Torpillo
Market leader Torpillo looked a smart recruit to the chasing ranks when beat Mister Fisher by three lengths at Warwick.
He’s worth taking on at 9/4 with Ladbrokes, given he was rated inferior to the likes of Grand Sancy and Summerville Boy over hurdles.
One that can’t be discounted, however, is the Dan Skelton trained Nube Negra – unbeaten in two starts over fences this season.
In the first of those at Warwick, he jumped and travelled extremely well before quickening instantly when asked to easily beat Ballymoy by three lengths.
He was rated 1lb inferior to that rival going into the race, so it was a very smart performance to dispose of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge in the manner that he did.
Nube Negra has since followed-up in facile fashion at Fakenham when again jumping with aplomb and taken to chasing like a duck to water.
This is by far his toughest assignment to date and demands much more, but he did finish third in the Fred Winter at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival and has the potential to improve further.
He is a hold-up horse who will need the cards to drop right, but the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase is likely to be run at a strong pace which could set it up for a closer.
Nube Negra certainly falls into that category and can be backed at 5/2 with BetVictor to take the step up in class in his stride and complete the hat-trick.