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Son Of Red looks best of the hurdling newcomers, but CASTEL GANDOLFO and State Crown have the advantage of some experience, with both placed on their jumping debuts. The selection probably achieved that bit more when going close at Musselburgh.
Cedar Hill and Oscar Ceremony are seeking hat-tricks, but over a different distance than for their respective first two legs. The thriving six-year-old Cedar Hill is still very much respected now back up in trip but, at bigger odds, a chance is taken on the stamina of LAS TUNAS.
His very best form has come on good ground, on which he won at Carlisle last month, and when pulled up last time he was on good to soft going at Kelso, a course that doesn’t appear to suit. The unexposed Do Not Disturb is open to improvement, while Ascot De Bruyere and Treshnish like it here.
Others have better form, but TUPELO MISSISSIPPI looks as promising as any of these and, armed with a 5lbs pull, he can gain his revenge on Carlisle conqueror Le Cheval Noir. Getaround is hard to knock with his recent defeats no backward steps, and Ask A Honey Bee is unlikely to be far away.
He was unfortunate to bump into subsequent Badger Beers winner El Presente when a clear second at Hereford on his reappearance and AYE AYE CHARLIE (NAP) is selected to go one better off the same mark today. The lightly raced The Ferry Master has been a big improver over fences and is feared most, ahead of Court Dreaming who is another progressive seven-year-old. Baron De Midleton is much better than he showed last time and Oscar Robertson is also respected in an interesting little race.
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Nicky Henderson won this in 2017 and 2018 with his reappearing Champion Hurdler Buveur D’Air, and Epatante, who won by 3 lengths in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, now follows the same route. She is very much the one to beat on form and, given Buveur D’Air’s record in this race, it seems likely she will be close to her peak on this return to action.
However, that isn’t guaranteed and if SILVER STREAK is ever going to beat Epatante, today may well be the day. He twice finished behind the mare last season but that was on soft ground and he could pose much more of a threat on today’s forecast good going, especially as he has a race-fitness advantage.
At the prices, the gallant grey is worth chancing. Sceau Royal also has his conditions but faces much classier rivals than when easily winning the Elite Hurdle, while the ground is vastly different to when Cornerstone Lad beat Buveur D’Air on heavy last year.
Presentandcounting won a bumper on the all-weather here and has the best hurdle form but could do with settling better. FEARLESS FRACAS was thrown in at the deep end in a warm Cheltenham bumper on last month’s rules debut, finishing a respectable ninth after a long absence, and there could be lots more to come from this impressive point winner. Ewood Park has shown promise on his first two starts and is also open to improvement. He’s second choice.
He is unraced beyond an extended 2m 4f, but COOL MIX has stayed on well and been in good form over 2m 3f/2m 4f the last twice, and could prove well suited by today’s step up in trip. Whatmore ran a cracker when second at Ascot on last month’s reappearance and stands out as the main danger, ahead of Pym and The Butcher Said. Takingrisks won this last year but on heavy ground, and with good going expected today he may find it an insufficient test of stamina.
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