Hobbs hopes Colour Squadron flies home

Colour Squadron produced a fine performance to beat smart bumper horse Montbazon at Newbury and Philip Hobbs is looking forward to seeing how he handles a step up in class in today’s 32Red Novices’ Hurdle – better known as the Tolworth – at Sandown.

“We were delighted with him at Newbury and it was a good performance to make all the running that day,” said the six-year-old gelding’s trainer.

“We’ve been very pleased with him since and the soft ground won’t be a problem for him as he handles testing ground fine. It’s a good race tomorrow, but we’re hoping he can run very well and we’ll make plans from there. He stays two miles extremely well and might stay further, but he seems very effective at that trip, so we’ll stick to it for the time being.”

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Scottish owner Graham Wylie has revealed the decision to let Prospect Wells take his chance in the field was an “afterthought”.

The high-class Flat performer has made an excellent start to his career over timber for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. After an impressive debut at Chepstow, the seven-year-old finished a narrow second to Steps To Freedom at Cheltenham before getting back on the winning trail at Newbury.

He was last seen finishing a highly-creditable fourth against more experienced rivals in The Ladbroke at Ascot and he is back in novice company this weekend, albeit at Grade One level. Wylie admits the intention after the gelding’s last run was to give him some time off, but connections have now decided to turn him out again in the Tolworth.

“We weren’t entered in the race initially and to be honest, this is a bit of an afterthought,” said Wylie. “The original plan after he ran in The Ladbroke was to give him a bit of a break but when the race was reopened on Monday because there weren’t many entries, Paul decided to put him in. He said the horse seemed in good form and he would decide whether or not he would run after he cantered on Thursday morning.

“Paul was really pleased and the horse is quite well in himself, so we’ll let him take his chance and see how we get on.”

Prospect Wells’ long-term objective is the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a race Wylie believes will suit his French import ideally. “He’s a two-mile hurdler and the Supreme would look the race for him,” the owner added.

Although Prospect Wells faces only four rivals, he is sure to be given a thorough examination. The dark horse of the race is the Nicky Henderson-trained Captain Conan, a winner at Auteuil but yet to be sighted on a British racecourse.

On the same card, Martin Keighley feels everything is in place for All For Free to run a massive race in the 32Red Handicap Chase.

The Gloucestershire handler is enjoying a terrific season and the yard is on a high after the victory of Champion Court in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham last week. All For Free has won his last two races at Ascot and Ludlow, rising a stone in the weights in the process, but he still manages to creep in off bottom weight for this two-mile contest. “He’s an improving horse and appears to be going the right way very quickly,” said Keighley. “He’s gone up a stone for winning the last twice but he’s only just turned six so you’d hope there’s plenty more to come. He’ll love the ground tomorrow, the track should be no problem and he’s in great form so I’m expecting a big run.”

Another one of the favourites is Hold Fast, representing the all-conquering Saturday team of Nicholls and Ruby Walsh. He is one of a handful of horses owner Wylie transferred to the champion trainer and he finished fourth on his first run for the yard at Newbury.

Venetia Williams runs Rileyev, who beat Hold Fast at Newbury earlier in the season, but she is concerned about the swing in the weights. Rileyev was subsequently touched off at Cheltenham by Astracad, but he has been raised 5lb for that run.

“Rileyev has been running very consistently but the handicapper might have caught up with him now,” said Williams.