The feature race on a competitive card at Sandown this Friday is the extended 2m 3f Grade 2 Winter Novices’ Hurdle (14:25).
Ofalltheginjoints was arguably an unlucky loser when runner-up last time out, so at 4/1 with BetVictor looks worth a wager to go one better and resume winning ways.
After winning an Irish point in good style from a subsequent winner, this five-year-old joined trainer Colin Tizzard and showed a really likeable attitude when landing a decent 10-runner novice hurdle at Chepstow.
Ofalltheginjoints raced prominently and tracked the leaders, before getting driven and outpaced when the tempo quickened two from home.
He then dug deep for Robbie Power’s urgings and rallied strongly to beat the Paul Nicholls trained Flic Ou Voyou by a neck.
The third home Proschema went on to score next time up and the front trio pulled nicely clear of the fourth home Harry Senior, who has since run well to finish second.
That gives the form a far from shabby look.
Ofalltheginjoints has since gone down all guns blazing when beaten just a short-head by Boss Man Fred at Kempton.
The son of Stowaway looked the likely winner approaching the last, but made an error which cost home vital ground and momentum.
It was to his credit, therefore, that he battled on gamely and only lost out in the dying strides.
Ofalltheginjoints also undoubtedly has more to offer, as he still looked green at Kempton, so he looks the one to be on at the odds on offer.
Happygolucky sets Winter Novices’ Hurdle standard
Happygolucky has proven form in the grade, so looks the obvious danger to Ofalltheginjoints.
This five-year-old shaped with plenty of promise when runner-up in his sole start in an Irish point and looked smart prospect when making a winning debut under Rules for Kim Bailey in an eight-runner maiden hurdle at Stratford.
Happygolucky chased the leaders going well and, after being produced to take up the running on the long run before the last, shot clear to easily beat Mercy Mercy Me.
The son of Jeremy scored with any amount in hand, and it was a very visually impressive display which suggested he needed keeping onside.
That view was confirmed when Happygolucky finished a fine 3 3/4 lengths third of eight to Thyme Hill in a decent renewal of the Grade 2 Hyde Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last month.
After challenging two from home, he held every chance at the last before being unable to find an extra on the run-in
The winner, who finished third to Envoi Allen in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival, is now unbeaten in two starts over the obstacles and the best middle-distance novice hurdler seen out so far.
Champagne Well, who finished second, is also a useful sort who had previously won in game fashion at The Showcase Meeting at the same venue the previous month.
There were also some highly regarded types in-behind, so the form looks rock solid in relation to the Winter Novices’ Hurdle.
That effort has earned Happygolucky an official rating of 134, the highest in the seven-runner line-up.
It makes him the one to beat, but odds of 9/4 with Bethard look plenty short enough. For that reason alone, Happygolucky looks worth taking on.
Emma’s Joy a player for Skelton
The aforementioned Boss Man Fred held an entry at the five-day stage, so it looks significant that his trainer Dan Skelton has decided instead to saddle Emma’s Joy.
This five-year-old mare had some smart form in bumpers, winning on debut under Rules at Southwell before finishing runner-up in a Listed affair at Huntingdon when beaten just half-a-length by Timetochill.
Emma’s Joy was also far from disgraced when eighth of 20 to The Glancing Queen in a Grade 2 at the Aintree Grand National Festival and shaped with plenty of promise on hurdles debut at Uttoxeter in October when third.
The daughter of Gold Well then duly built on that experience to win by a wide margin last time out over 2m at Warwick.
Emma’s Joy made all and, despite jumping right on several occasions, drew effortlessly clear to slam Captain Woodie eased down by 15 lengths.
It was a performance which marked her out as an exciting prospect. The step up in trip and going right handed look sure to suit.
This obviously demands more, but Skelton has his team in good form and as the only mare in the line-up she receives a handy 7lb weight allowance.
It makes Emma’s Joy a big player and she can be backed at 11/2 with Ladbrokes to go in again.