Old Guard tipped for National Spirit Hurdle crown

Paul Nicholls, the trainer of National Spirit Hurdle contender Old Guard
Paul Nicholls, the trainer of National Spirit Hurdle contender Old Guard
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Old Guard has been backed to become the new name on the National Spirit Hurdle trophy by our expert tipsters, AccaDoo.

A bumper crowd is expected at Fontwell Park this Sunday as the West Sussex course hosts its most prestigious fixture.

Lil Rockerfeller won the National Spirit Hurdle in 2016 and will bid to regain his crown on Sunday

Lil Rockerfeller won the National Spirit Hurdle in 2016 and will bid to regain his crown on Sunday

The £80,000 Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle (3.20pm) is the feature race of an action-packed card and following a huge increase in prize money, a high-clas field lines up.

However, we reckon the two at the top of the weights will be the ones to back.

We like the look of OLD GUARD, who has won a couple of times this season already for trainer Paul Nicholls. Jockey Harry Cobden has winning form on him and no doubt a return to drier ground will suit, so a big run is expected.

Lil Rockerfeller, who was second in last season's Stayers Hurdle at Cheltenham, is bidding to retain the crown he won in 2016. Neil King's star will have his supporters but he will have to carry top weight and new headgear to victory.

With eight runners set to go to post, there is value for each-way punters here, too. Gary and Josh Moore won with Camping Ground last year and the Fontwell favourites team up with Ubak on Sunday.

Second to Lil Rockerfeller in 2016, he hasn't run a lot since, although his two comeback runs this season have been of a decent standard. It would be no surprise to see him involved at a course he clearly enjoys.

Air Horse One, for trainer Harry Fry, looked back to his best when finishing second at Ascot last time out. He disappointed in his penultimate race but if he is on a going day he stands a chance of place money.

You have to go back to 2016 for Clyne’s last victory. Since then he has run with credit without getting his nose in front. And trainer Evan Williams isn’t having a lot of winners at the moment which is also a worry.

Of the rest, Dan Skelton's Value At Risk, ridden by Bridget Andrews, hasn’t quite cut it at the top level. Dr Des needs to find a bit more to be on terms with these rivals and Norman The Red seems way below the level required.

Racing gets under way with the Josh Gifford Memorial Novices’ Chase (2.20pm). Only three are declared to run and The Unit was second at Kempton on Saturday so is unlikely to be turned out again.

Fry runs SPACE ODDITY and has booked the ever-dependable Noel Fehily to ride. A revelation since he was switched to chasing, Space Oddity was decent over hurdles without being spectacular. Copain De Classe has a bit to find.

The second race is the totequadpot Handicap Chase (2.50pm). THE LAST BUT ONE, trained by Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, is our pick. A winner on chase debut at Musselburgh three weeks ago, we expect him to come on for the experience, which has only seen him raised 4lb.

Previous Fontwell winner Brown Bear will have his supporters but he hasn’t won off a mark this high. The same could be said for Stoical Patient, another course winner who is rising in the weights. He has won all four completed starts since joining Moore.

Following the National Spirit Hurdle is the totepool Supporting The Racehorse Sanctuary Novices’ Hurdle (3.55pm). Neil Mulholland’s former Flat racer NIBLAWI has caught the eye and may well get his first victory over obstacles now stepped up in trip.

The biggest threats may come from top weight Call Me Sid, perennial runner-up Puppet Warrior and Jersey Bean.

Next up is the totepool Betting At Totesport Open Hunters Chase (4.25pm), where it is notoriously hard to find a winner. However, Nicholls always does well with his hunter chasers and UNIONISTE, 10th in the 2016 Grand National, seems the stand-out horse in the race. Real Milan may get closest to him.

The penultimate race is the totetrifecta Handicap Hurdle (4.55pm) and we like the two Mulholland runners. Stable jockey Fehily, who we presume gets first pick, is on CINTEX and we think that is a wise choice.

Second at Uttoxeter three runs ago in July, he hasn’t liked the softer surfaces since, so a return to better ground should see him run a big race.

Harry Reed takes off 7lb off Mulholland's other runner, Duke Of Kilcorral, who improved massively to finish second at Bangor-on-Dee last time. A repeat of that performance will see him be competitive once more.

If we had to back one to run a big race at a big price, we would go for Oliver Sherwood’s Robinsson. He hasn’t been seen on a racecourse for two seasons but he was previously pretty smart and his stable is in good form.

The final race is the competitive Collect totepool Winnings At Betfred Shops Maiden Open NH Flat Race (5.25pm), where a case can be made for almost all of the runners.

Black Lightning has run well behind some interesting types so far, Shaughnessy looked good first time out and is expected to come on for that run and L’Chamise has performed well on his two starts to date.

However, we give THE FLYING SOFA a second chance as he didn’t seem to like the heavy ground here last time out. He was very good on his debut and we think a return to firmer conditions here will see trainer Moore in the Fontwell winners' enclosure yet again.

AccaDoo selections: 2.20 Space Oddity; 2.50 The Last But One; 3.20 Old Guard; 3.55 Niblawi; 4.25 Unioniste; 4.55 Cintex; 5.25 The Flying Sofa

This preview was written by the horse racing experts at AccaDoo - the home of free daily horse racing and football tips, plus exclusive free bet offers.