A disappointing field of just three go to post for the extended 2m 7f Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase on Ladbrokes Trophy day at Newbury this Saturday (12:40).
Reserve Tank looks in a totally different league to his rivals and impossible to oppose.
This Colin Tizzard trained five-year-old has won five of his eight starts under Rules and developed into a top class hurdler last season.
After getting off the mark over the obstacles at the third time of asking when staying on strongly Elusive Belle by 2 3/4 lengths at Sandown, Reserve Tank then followed-up in gutsy fashion.
He got up in the last stride to score by a neck in a four-runner affair at Kempton.
Connections then decided to pitch him into Grade 1 company and, despite being sent off 20/1, Reserve Tank ran out the resounding winner of the 2m 4f Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree Grand National Festival.
Despite making a mistake at the last, he quickly regained his momentum under regular pilot Robbie Power and showed a smart turn of foot in the closing stages to repel the sustained challenge of the Olly Murphy trained Brewin’upastorm by 3 1/4 lengths.
The son of Jeremy then went on to show that there was no fluke whatsoever about that victory when rounding off the campaign with victory in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle over 2m 4f at the Punchestown Festival.
Tons in hand on ratings
He again travelled well throughout and when strongly pressed found plenty to beat Sams Profile by half-a-length.
Those successes marked Reserve Tank as a hugely exciting prospect, especially as he is a strapping sort and built to come into his own when going chasing.
It was therefore somewhat disappointing that he got turned over on debut over the larger obstacles on return to action at Chepstow in October when sent off odds-on and beaten 3 1/2 lengths by Jarveys Plate.
However, Reserve Tank was not given a hard time once it was clear he would not be winning.
He duly showed the benefit of that experience last time out when running out an impressive 3 3/4 lengths winner of a Grade 2 contest over 2m 4f at Wincanton.
That taking success had earned him an official rating of 151. It gives hum 9lb in hand on Ardlethen and 11lb on Danny Whizzbang.
It makes this look Reserve Tank’s for the taking granted a clear round, and cramped odds of 4/9 with 888Sport are a true reflection of his chances.
Hence he is taken to land the spoils with the minimum of fuss en route to better things and a possible tilt at the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival should all go to plan.
Point winner Danny Whizbang has untapped potential
Should Reserve Tank fail to live up to expectations, then chase debutant Danny Whizzbang could well be the one to take advantage.
This six-year-old came good at the second time of asking in an Irish point at Ballysteen when staying on strongly to readily beat the useful Ask Ben, who has since finished runner-up in a Grade 2, by 2 1/2 lengths.
He was then purchased for a hefty sum on behalf of owner Angela Tickell and made a winning start under Rules for champion trainer Paul Nicholls when digging deep to beat Master Card by three-quarters of a length in a 10-runner maiden hurdle at Hereford.
Danny Whizzbang the put up a taking performance when forging clear to readily beat Trucking Away by five lengths at Exeter.
The front two pulled 21 lengths clear of the third home Present Value, who is a well-regarded sort trained by Evan Williams that went into the race on the back of a success and has since shaped with bags of promise on chasing debut when runner-up at Aintree.
That gives the form a decent look and – judged on his point win – Danny Whizzbang has the potential to make up into an even better chaser.
He has also undergone a wind-up during the summer break and Nicholls has made no secret that he is a horse that he really likes.
The fact he has throws him straight into graded company reflects that, but lowering the colours of a race-fit dual Grade 1 winner is a huge ask.
Danny Whizzbang, who can be backed at 6/1 with Paddy Power, appeals most as the one to chase home Reserve Tank in the John Francome Novices’ Chase for the straight forecast.
Ardlethen represents in-from Skelton in John Francome Novices’ Chase
Trainer Dan Skelton, who is operating at a strike rate of just under 21 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing, saddles Ardlethen who has done little wrong in two starts over fences.
In the first of those at Chepstow, the six-year-old showed a really willing attitude to fend off the persistent late challenge of Lisnagar Oscar by a neck.
As the runner-up was a Grade 2 winner over hurdles, and also ran well to finish fifth and third in Grade 1 contests at the Cheltenham festival and Aintree’s Grand National meeting respectively, it was smart debut over the larger obstacles.
The third home De Name Evades Me has also run well since to finish runner-up, whilst Truckers Lodge – who was beaten over 30 lengths into fourth – won next time up.
That gives the form a solid look, and Ardlethen has since run well to finish a four-length runner-up to Sam Spinner at Wetherby.
There are clearly more races to be won with Ardlethen, who has now scored three times under Rules, but this is by far the stiffest task he has faced to date.
He also has a class gulf to bridge with Reserve Tank, and doesn’t have the same potential as Danny Whizzbang.
Hence at John Francome Novices’ Chase odds of 4/1 with Unibet, Ardlethen is opposed on this occasion.