Published 3rd March
FLYING TIGER currently has uninspiring form figures ahead of the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle but they don’t tell the full story and he retains the ability to notch another Festival success.
Winner of the Fred Winter two years ago (now the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle), Nick Williams’s gelding rarely gets his ideal scenario - namely a big-field, strongly-run race on goodish ground.
As a result, he’s tumbled back down the weights, leaving him well-treated for when the stars realign in his favour - this race, along with perhaps the Swinton at Haydock, offers the most potential for a revival in fortunes, weather permitting of course.
There’s no questioning the six-year-old’s raw talent - he’s finished third to Buveur D’Air in a Fighting Fifth and similarly creditable fifth in the Group 3 Cumberland Lodge on the Flat - but as a keen-going hold-up horse, circumstances often conspire against him.
Soft ground did for him in this event last year - for which remarkably he started 6-1 favourite despite the conditions - and it was a similar story in Ascot’s big December handicap this season, though on both occasions he travelled strongly for a long way.
There’s no questioning the six-year-old’s raw talent - he’s finished third to Buveur D’Air in a Fighting Fifth and similarly creditable fifth in the Group 3 Cumberland Lodge on the Flat.
Two unseats this campaign bear little reflection on his jumping technique as he was badly hampered on both occasions and though he wouldn’t have won anyway at Taunton two outings ago, he had raced on the inner most of the way which turned out to be the worst part of the track ground-wise that day.
That’s presumably why he was smashed into 7-2 favourite from an opening price of 16s at Newbury last time, the problem for his backers being there were no obvious pace-forcers in the line-up and it was duly run at a crawl.
Held up out the back in customary fashion, he was poorly placed in the dash for home and flattened out on the run-in as his earlier strong-pulling exertions took their toll.
He’ll need a bit of luck to make the cut here - especially as he’ll do well to pick up a penalty in the Imperial Cup given the likelihood of soft ground at Sandown - but his current mark of 133 would have sneaked him in at the foot of the weights last year, so fingers crossed enough above him come out and the weather turns in his favour too.