While some of the largest stables in the country are going through a somewhat lean patch, it could be that Saturday’s National Hunt action is dominated by some of the perhaps less heralded handlers.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has had just one winner from his last 26 runners (at the time of writing), while his arch-rival Nicky Henderson has been operating at a below-par strike-rate of 14 per cent in the past fortnight.
Until either of the two jump racing powerhouses show some consistency, it could be worth giving their runners a watching brief.
John Ferguson is somewhat lauded as a man that reaps the benefits of summer jumping, before fading in the winter months, but as the days get shorter, this season he continues to get a fine tune out of his runners.
The Cowlinge trainer has seen nine of his last 10 runners at least place, and a whopping 72 per cent of his runners have finished in the first three so far in the 2015-16 season.
What won’t be pleasing on the eye for the Bloomsfields trainer is that in that spell, just four of those horses have finished first, while 11 have found only one other runner too good.
With five horses set to run on Saturday, Ferguson will be eyeing a conversion of those excellent runs from his string into victories.
For punters though, Ladbrokes’ money back special could be well placed to chance your arm with runners donning the black silks of Bloomfields.
The bookmaker will refund losing bets if your horse is beaten into second in any live Channel 4 race as a free bet.*
Ferguson sends out Robertstown in the Summit Juvenile Hurdle (14:05) at Doncaster, in what could be a telling piece of placement, with the three-year-old being pitched in at Grade 2 level on debut over obstacles.
He did exactly that with Broughton in 2013, only to see his runner denied by a head by Fox Norton that time.
Like many of Ferguson’s horses the son of Ravens Pass comes from a flat racing background, having twice won for John Gosden on the level In Ireland this year.
He had some useful hurdlers behind him last time at Naas, with Grade 3 runner-ups Macnicholson and Noble Inn chasing him home that day.
If he can convert his flat form to hurdles he could be an exciting recruit to the jumping game.
Just 20 minutes later Ennistown could bid to make it a quick-fire double for the team in the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham (14:25).
Like his trainer, the gelding has been very consistent since starting his career, finishing in the first two on all five starts.
He was unlucky not to win last time out at Market Rasen, when going down by half a length after being carried left in the latter stages by the eventual winner.
A step up in trip will test his stamina reserves, but the way he battled on that day in Lincolnshire suggests he should see out the near-three-mile contest.
He has the partnership of Aidan Coleman at Prestbury Park, a man who has thrived since becoming retained jockey to the stud for which Ferguson trains.
The duo have enjoyed a 38 per cent strike rate when combining this term, meaning another Graded success could be on the cards.
With the way his luck has been going both of Ferguson’s runners on the Channel 4 card could well be pipped to the post and finish second, but with Ladbrokes’ money back offer covering your back, there is no reason not to side with in-form handler.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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