2020 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle tips – Preview and tips for Grade One highlight at Sandown

Jon Vine takes a look through the field for the Grade One feature at Sandown and provides readers with his tips for Saturday 4th January.

The first Grade One of the New Year hits our screens on Saturday, as a talented field battle it out in the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle. This two-mile contest has often been used as a stepping stone towards big Festival glory, with the likes of Desert Orchid, Yorkhill and Summerville Boy all going on to score at the Cheltenham Festival two months after scooping the big prize at Sandown.

Colin Tizzard has saddled two of the previous three Tolworth winners, and he’ll be confident that Fiddlerontheroof (2/1 Unibet) can join Finian’s Oscar and Elixir De Nutz on the illustrious roll of honour. Tizzard thought highly enough of his new recruit to throw him straight into the Persian War on his first start over obstacles, and Fiddlerontheroof performed well in that Grade Two, only going down to the classy Thyme Hill by two lengths.

Fiddlerontheroof bolts up under Robbie Power at Sandown on Saturday.

Robbie Power’s mount was then expected to score a simple success on his first start in a novice race, only to get headed on the run to the line by Edwardstone, having made all on his own for most of the contest. Fiddlerontheroof righted that wrong in emphatic fashion here at Sandown last month, bolting up to win by seven lengths over two miles and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was backed into clear favouritism before the off.

Rivalling Fiddlerontheroof for favouritism at this point is Emma Lavelle’s Hang In There (2/1 Unibet), who built on a smart maiden triumph with at Grade Two triumph at Cheltenham’s November Meeting. Adam Wedge decided to make the running on Hang In There in the Sharp’s Novices’ Hurdle and the pair were never passed, scooting clear of Pacify upon entering the home straight before holding his rival at arm’s length all the way up the hill.

Hang In There secures a Grade Two under Adam Wedge at Cheltenham.

The first unbeaten hurdler in the field is Son Of Camas (5/2 Unibet), who followed a comfortable bumper victory at Newbury with a confident hurdles triumph on his return to Newbury at their Winter Carnival. Most eyes were on King Roland, as the favourite turned for home travelling well. It was Son Of Camas who stole the headlines though, hitting the front after the second-last and displaying a nice turn-of-foot to win by a couple of lengths.

Silver Hallmark (7/1 Unibet) is also one-from-one over hurdles, having upset odds-on favourite, McFabulous to win by four lengths on his hurdling debut at Chepstow. The runner-up did nothing to advertise that form in the Kennel Gate before Christmas, but McFabulous is clearly a very talented horse and, for Silver Hallmark to beat him so convincingly, proves Fergal O’Brien’s charge has plenty of ability.

Gavin Cromwell could send Jeremys Flame (6/1 Unibet) back to England, having watched his mare come up half-a-length short of the impressive Floressa on his British debut at Newbury. Cromwell’s raider has now placed a close second to two quality mares in high-level races and won easily on her only start in mixed-sex company. She’s not one to be discounted quickly.

After a decent victory on his first start on British soil, Calva D’Auge (10/1 Unibet) found Thebannerkingrebel too hot to handle in the Listed Newton Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock. Paul Nicholls’ French recruit had no answer as the favourite set off for home, but managed to hold off Glory And Fortune in the race for second-place and could give each-way backers a run for their money. Yet, with the size of the field likely to come down to five or six, there’s little scope for an each-way punt.

I firmly believe that Fiddlerontheroof is the classiest horse in this field and he has some valuable course form to bolster his chances. Hang In There is certainly not without ability either, and Emma Lavelle’s Cheltenham winner could come in for support before the off.

I would be surprised if both didn’t want to employ the same front-running tactics which bore fruit on their previous starts and a fierce battle could ensue at the head of the field. This is exactly what a fast closer like SON OF CAMAS needs and Nicky Henderson’s youngster is the one to side with in this year’s Tolworth.

Nicky Henderson is a four-time winner of the Tolworth Hurdle.

Unlike the two ahead of him in the betting – who look better suited to trips beyond the minimum distance – Son Of Camas looked a real two-miler at Newbury, picking off King Roland with a composed late burst during that impressive hurdling debut at Newbury. Sandown suits speedy sorts, soft ground didn’t dampen Son Of Camas’ turn-of-foot at Newbury and Henderson’s youngster jumped well enough to suggest the quick-fire nature of the obstacle at Sandown won’t pose him any undue problems.

I’ll be hoping to see Son Of Camas tracking Fiddlerontheroof and Hang In There throughout the race. If the leaders do indeed end up cutting each other’s throats, Nico De Boinville’s mount will be on-hand to pounce!