Bonfire Night is now behind us which means we really are into the thick of the new jumps season and that continues this weekend with plenty of sport for punters to sink their teeth into. Wincanton host one of their best fixtures of the season on Saturday afternoon and much of the attention will be on that in the UK.
The Grade 2 Elite Hurdle is the feature race of the day at Wincanton and it is always a more than decent contest at this relatively early stage of the season. Recent winners of this one include Zarkandar (2012), Celestial Halo (2009 and 2010), Well Chief (2003) and Azertyuiop (2001) and it will be interesting to see which horse can claim the pot this weekend.
Nicholls with a Strong Hand
Paul Nicholls has trained the winner of the Elite Hurdle on no less than six occasions during his career and with that in mind there is no surprise to see the Champion Trainer with a strong hand once again this November.
His two runners here, All Yours and Irving, are very hard to split with both rated as 3/1 shots with Bet365, although Irving is available at 4/1 elsewhere. Irving is perhaps the bigger name of the two but he has disappointed ever since he started joint favourite with Vautour back in the 2014 Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Irving clearly has talent but he was average at best last season and with top weight on his back on Saturday, this looks a big ask for a horse with a question mark over his head. All Yours is perhaps going the other way after he won the Grade 1 Juvenile Race at Aintree back in April having perhaps looked just below top level prior to that.
All Yours was able to beat Devilment that day at Aintree with that form already franked this term and that has to be boost to his chances on Saturday with Sam Twiston-Davies taking the ride on board the potential improver.
Strong Opposition at Wincanton
Dan Skelton continues to make massive waves as a trainer and he will be hoping for another big win here with the interesting Zarib (5/2) set to take his chance at Wincanton. He was 6th in the Fred Winter back in March, two places behind All Yours, but he is getting plenty of weight in his favour with that horse this time which could see him run very well and it is hard to see him out of the frame.
Other horses to consider include good old Melodic Rendesvous (10/1) who appears to have been around forever but is still only nine and he is a former winner of this race for Jeremy Scott. He is back over hurdles which should help but he has plenty of weight to carry here and you fear one or two maybe too good for him.
John Ferguson also has a couple of bullets in the form of Francis Of Assisi (7/1), who was a handicap winner on the flat for Aidan O'Brien, and Buckwheat (14/1), who has a claimer taking 7lbs off but this is a big step up in class for both and they might find this a little tough.
On balance though this looks like a battle between Zarib and All Yours as the younger improving animals of the field. Zarib has plenty of weight in his favour but All Yours was mightily impressive when winning that Grade 1 race at Aintree in a contest that has worked out really well and he is our selection here.
Tip - All Yours to win the Elite Hurdle @ 3/1 with Bet365.com
Saturday 7th November 2015, 3.15pm - Elite Hurdle (Wincanton)