A disappointing field of just two go to post for the 2m 5f Grade 2 Noel Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Friday (12:45).
Following an impressive winning debut over the larger obstacles, Angels Breath looks a worthy red-hot favourite to follow-up.
After winning his sole start in a 3m Irish point, this five-year-old joined Nicky Henderson and was very impressive on this card 12 months ago when easily landing the Grade 2 Kennel Gate Hurdle by 4 1/2 lengths.
A blunder at the last then arguably cost him victory when a three-quarters of a length runner-up to Southfield Stone in a Grade 2 at Kempton.
Angels Breath was then sent off just 6/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but pulled too hard and trailed in a well-beaten seventh of 16 to Klassical Dream.
This son of Shantou then put in a much better display on his final start of the campaign in a Grade 1 at Aintree’s Grand National meeting when upped to 2m 4f.
He finished a staying on 5 1/2 lengths third to the very smart Reserve Tank. The winner went on to follow-up in another Grade 1 at the Punchestown Festival.
Well clear on ratings
In truth, whatever Angels Breath achieved over hurdles was a bonus as he is a strapping sort whose future was always going to be over fences.
There was certainly lots to like about his chasing debut over 2m 1f here last month when beating First Flow by eight lengths.
Angels Breath jumped well throughout and, after taking up the running two from home, only had to be ridden out after the last to register a ready success.
It was a performance which oozed class and suggested that he had the potential to go right to the top over the larger obstacles.
That win has earned Angels Breath an official rating of 151. It puts him 9lb clear of sole rival Mont Des Avaloirs, who finished a promising fourth behind Champ on chasing debut at Newbury three weeks ago.
This look Angel Breath’s for the taking, granted a clear round. The step up in trip looks ideal. Cramped Noel Novices’ Chase odds of 1/3 with SportNation thus look a true reflection of his chances.
Ribble Valley the one to be on in Kennel Gate
The Nicky Richrads trained Ribble Valley looks a hugely exciting prospect and is a strong fancy at 4/5 with Betway to take the step up into Grade 2 company in his stride and land the spoils in the 2m Kennel Gate Novices’ Hurdle (14:30).
This David Yates owned six-year-old won two of his three starts in bumpers and is unbeaten in two outings over hurdles this season.
In the first of those on heavy ground at Hexham, Ribble Valley raced prominently throughout and drew effortlessly clear after taking up the running three from home to win in a canter by nine lengths from Itsnotyouitsme.
The son of Westerner was then sent off a well-backed 13/8 joint-favourite for what looked like a decent class 4 contest at Wetherby and again turned the race into a procession.
Ribble Valley travelled ominously well throughout and drew clear after being produced to take up the running two from home.
He then stayed on strongly under a hands and heels ride to account for Sir Valentine, who had previously won in good style at Newbury, by 11 lengths.
The rest of the field was strung out like washing, so there was simply nothing not to like about the way in which Ribble Valley got the job done.
Judged on the manner of that success, he has a massive future and looks well worth a crack at this level.
He is also a rare raider at the Berkshire venue for Penrith-based Richards who is operating at a strike rate of just over 20 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
Ribble Valley also receives a handy 3lb from Master Debonair, who looks his main rival on paper, yet is rated 5lb superior to Colin Tizzard’s charge.
Israel Champ taken to collect in Listed bumper
In the Listed 2m bumper that brings proceedings to a close (15:40), Israel Champ is taken to defy a penalty and further enhance his Cheltenham Festival claims.
This four-year-old was very impressive when winning his sole start in an Irish point by 12 lengths, after which he was bought by John White and Anne Underhill and sent to join David Pipe.
Israel Champ failed to live up to expectations on debut for the Pond House handler when sent off favourite and finishing sixth of 12 to Dragon Beau at Worcester.
However, he didn’t shape too badly and duly showed the benefit of that experience when impressibley landing what looked a hot eight-runner Listed bumper at Cheltenham last month.
Israel Champ made all under a positive ride from Tom Sscudamore and found plenty to register a comfortable 1 3/4 length success over Nicky Henderson trained and JP McManus owned odds-on favourite Time Flies By.
He simply galloped his rivals into submission and never looked like being passed at any stage.
The runner-up looked like a top prospect when making a winning debut at last month’s Showcase Meeting at Prestbury Park, but was firmly put in his place.
It was a performance which suggested there was plenty more to come from Israel Champ.
Judged on the manner in which the strapping son of Milan got the job done, he may well be capable of defying a 4lb penalty to follow-up.
Odds of 6/1 with Coral say he will do just that and provide Pipe with back-to-back victories in this race on Noel Novices’ Chase day following the success of Eden Du Houx 12 months ago.