Evan Williams has enjoyed a fantastic spell during the last few weeks. Star Gate set the ball rolling in the Grade 2 Winter Novices' Hurdle at Sandown in early December, Silver Streak landed the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and Boxing Day and Secret Reprieve provided his trainer with his first win in the Welsh National at Chepstow on Saturday. The lightly raced seven year old had won the Welsh National Trial at the track by a dozen lengths a month ago and only incurred a four pounds penalty. The Flemensfirth gelding was given a confident ride by Adam Wedge and, having taken over at the third last, he was always going to win from that point onwards. A three lengths winner, he is likely to be viewed as a Grand National contender one day but that appears unlikely this season given his age. His owners, the Ruckers, are known for their patience, and I would be surprised if Secret Reprieve is given an entry at Aintree this time around. Evan's interview in the Christmas Special has proved very profitable - I only wish I had tipped the seven year old.
It was also a tremendous day for Paul Nicholls with the former champion sending out 7 winners on Saturday. McFabulous and Master Tommytucker provided Team Ditcheat with two Grade 2 victories at Kempton. The former appreciated the drop back to two miles five in the rescheduled Relkeel Hurdle and was a ready scorer by two and a quarter lengths. He looks tailormade for the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle in the spring, although it will be interesting to see if he is given an entry in the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham.
The Top 40 Prospects were amongst the winners at Wincanton. Sizable Sam (2/1) made it two wins from three starts over hurdles when winning on his handicap debut off a mark of 124. Rex Dingle did the steering and certainly made plenty of use him. Headed between the final two flights, the Black Sam Bellamy gelding rallied well to edge out Oneupmanship by half a length. Despite his last two wins, I am convinced he will prove a better horse when given a lead. The five year old is unlikely to be too harshly treated for this latest win and is the sort to stay ahead of the handicapper, although he is expected to be tried in Graded company at some stage this season. He will have no trouble staying three miles in due course and is a promising youngster. As regards the other two horses in the Top 40 who raced on Saturday, neither jumped well enough to win. They have plenty of ability but need to improve their jumping technique.
Finally, Sage Advice (7/4) was nominated as a juvenile hurdler to follow in the November Update and Dr Richard Newland's new recruit made a smooth transition to jumping by winning at Kempton. Bought by agent Alex Elliott for 65,000gns at the Newmarket Autumn Horses in Training Sale out of Joseph Murphy's yard in Ireland, he was rated 79 on the Flat having won over ten furlongs at Cork in August. Despite racing a shade keenly early on, he made good headway on the hometurn before Sam Twiston-Davies' mount moved to the front after the second last. Pushed clear, the Make Believe gelding looks above average and could be one for the Listed Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh (7th February).
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