Sporting John has created a huge impression in winning both his starts under Rules, so – at 6/5 with Paddy Power – looks worth a wager to take a step up in class in his stride and land the spoils in the Listed 2m novices’ hurdle at Exeter this Sunday (16:05).
After winning his sole start in an Irish point, this five-year-old was purchased for a hefty sum by leading owner JP McManus and sent to join Seven Barrows handler Nicly Henderson.
He was talked of as something special ahead of his eagerly awaited hurdles debut in a 13-runner novice contest over this course and distance and looked just that when beating Harry Senior by 1 3/4 lengths.
After travelling strongly on the heels of the leaders, the son of Getaway was produced to challenge at the last by Barry Geraghty – who is once again in the saddle – and then asserted on the run-in to score readily.
Sporting John was well on top at the finish and value for much more than the winning margin. The runner-up has won twice since – including a Grade 2 last time out in fine style – to be rated 144.
As the third, fourth and fifth have also all come out and won since, that gives the form an extremely strong look.
Sporting John has since followed up with a facile eight-length success, again over this course and distance, to be officially rated 146.
That’s just 5lb lower than main market rival Master Debonair, who he gets weight from, and he is far less exposed than Colin Tizzard’s charge.
So, with further improvement assured, Sporting Joh is thus taken to complete the hat-trick and further enhance his Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle credentials at the Cheltenham Festival.
Reserve Tank fancied to get back on track in Exeter opener
Reserve Tank failed to live up to expectations when runner-up last time out.
Now dropped significantly in grade following a break, however, he looks worth siding with to resume winning ways in the 3m novices’ Chase that gets proceedings underway (13:55).
This Tizzard trained six-year-old has won five of his nine starts under Rules, and developed into a top class hurdler last season when winning Grade 1 contests at Aintree and Punchestown in fine style.
Those successes marked Reserve Tank as a hugely exciting prospect, especially as he is a strapping sort and built to come into his own over fences.
It was therefore somewhat disappointing that he got turned over on his chase debut 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 then duly showed the benefit of that experience next time up when running out an impressive 3 3/4 lengths winner of a Grade 2 contest over 2m 4f at Wincanton.
The son of Jeremy then made mistakes and ran flat when a four-length second of five to Danny Whizzbang in the Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ Chase at Newbury when last seen in action back in November.
He was clearly not himself that day, so it looks a shrewd more by connections to give him a spell on the sidelines to freshen-up.
This class 3 also represents a return to much calmer waters for Reserve Tank – who officially has 5lb and upwards in hand on his six rivals.
At odds of 15/8 with Betway, he very much looks the one to be on at Exeter.
Magic Of Light impossible to oppose in Listed chase
Irish raider Magic of Light looks in a totally different stratosphere to her four rivals in the Listed 3m Mares’ Chase (16:35), so is fully expected to land cramped odds with the minimum of fuss.
Trained by Jessica Harrington, this nine-year-old had a fine campaign last season when winning twice and finishing a superb 2 3/4 lengths second of 40 to Tiger Roll in the Grand National at Aintree.
She has looked as good as ever in three starts this term, finishing a not knocked about third in a Grade 2 hurdles contest at Navan before resuming winning ways at Newbury when landing a Listed chase by 99 lengths from Drinks Interval.
Magic Of Light was then switched back to hurdling and followed-up in grand style in a Grade 2 over this trip at Ascot when staying on strongly to account for Sensulano by four lengths.
She is a really likeable, versatile and consistent sort who has now won seven of her 26 starts and made the frame on 10 occasions.
An official rating of 158 gives her 13lb and upwards in hand on her rivals, so granted a clear round this looks her’s for the taking.
Odds of 1/2 with BetVictor reflect that, but Magic Of Light is impossible to oppose and it should just be a case of how far she wins.
Of the others, last year’s winner Atalanta Blaze looks the most likely one to chase her home for the straight forecast.