National Spirit Hurdle preview: If The Cap Fits has leading claims in Fontwell feature

Published on: February 23, 2019
Author: Jamie Clark
National Spirit Hurdle preview and betting tips from Fontwell

The big race this Sunday is the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle over 2m 3f at Fontwell (14:50), and If The Cap Fits scored at this level and intermediate trip earlier in the season.

That gives this lightly-raced, Harry Fry trained seven-year-old leading claims of going in again. If The Cap Fits is four from six over hurdles and now back up in distance after finishing a fine six-length third to Verdana Blue in the 2m Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle.

As he was giving the winner a 7lb sex allowance, there was nothing he could do when getting outpaced by that mare after the last.

Although this is a competitive and trappy race where a few have claims, If The Cap Fits tops official ratings on 155.

While there is little to choose between him and some others on figures, he outpaced Old Guard in the Ascot Hurdle on his penultimate start.

As If The Cap Fits meets that re-opposing rival off 6lb worse terms, he isn’t guaranteed to frank the form of that 1 1/2 lengths victory.

However, he’s open to far more progress than Paul Nicholls’ runner, who won this 12 months ago, and is entitled to head the betting at 2/1 with Coral as a result.

Old Guard hasn’t scored in eight starts since his National Spirit success last year, but trainer and jockey Harry Cobden are both bang in-form.

The eight-year-old is seven from 31 over hurdles and has placed on 12 other occasions, so he’s reasonably consistent.

If running up to his official rating of 154, then he should push If The Cap Fits closer than at Ascot off those 6lb better terms. Old Guard is probably best backed each-way, but bookmakers only pay on two places here.

Progressive Ballymoy has claims back in trip

Ballymoy is another with a progressive profile and perhaps didn’t get home when stepped up to 3m last time out.

Now dropping back in trip and not burdened with top weight in handicaps, the Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned six-year-old also has claims here.

Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, Ballymoy scored in a Grade 3 handicap at Ascot on his penultimate start. On adjusted ratings, this son of Flemensfirth comes out level with Old Guard and again has greater scope for improvement.

Daryl Jacob is in terrific form and the owners’ retained jockey again takes the ride. Ballymoy is thus prominent in the National Spirit Hurdle betting at 7/2 with Betfair.

Given he gets 2lb from If The Cap Fits, he’s just got 1lb to find on the favourite on these terms. Vision Des Flos is another consistent sort, but only one from 12 over hurdles for Colin Tizzard.

He has a bit to find on the market principals on a 150 mark despite getting weight from them, but is another to consider backing each-way in the contest.

Lil Rockerfeller won this three years ago and was second to Old Guard in 2018, but all hasn’t gone to plan for the Neil King trained eight-year-old this season.

Slow jumps when sent chasing meant a switch back to the smaller obstacles and he was a distant fifth in the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle last time out.

A wind operation since may help Lil Rockerfeller to get back on track, but he looks vulnerable off joint top weight off his current rating.

Sussex Ranger and Vive Le Roi complete the field, but both have plenty to find on official figures.