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KATESON shaped nicely on his reappearance at Newbury, where the lack of a recent run told in the latter stages of the race. That race was over 3 miles and I don’t believe he really gets that trip, so the drop to 2-and-a-half miles here could prove ideal.
He has some useful novice hurdle form, including when third in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle behind Champ and has course form at Aintree, as he finished second in the Grade 2 bumper at the 2018 festival. On his last start over this intermediate trip, he was second to Main Fact and that horse was running off a mark of 132.
Main Fact recently won a really valuable handicap off a 15lb higher mark to give real substance to that form, and the fifth and seventh both won two starts later to strengthen the form even further. Kateson actually runs off a 1lb lower here and with cheekpieces applied here for the first time, Tom Scudamore might try and kick on from the front here to replicate his win in the Ladbroke Trophy last weekend.
A cracking handicap hurdle with Willie Mullins running seven, but I’m going with Gordon Elliott’s mare SHATTERED LOVE. She can be a bit in and out, but she was a very good winner the last day at Clonmel when winning a Listed Mares Chase and was able to give Chris’s Dream a race at Gowran Park last February. She reverts to hurdling here to run off 136 and, with Gavin Brouder taking 7lbs off, she will be running off 129 which looks ripe for exploiting.
This is a very competitive race, though I have my reservations about some of the opposition, and ELDORADO ALLEN looks to have plenty in his favour. Some of his best form has come at the track and he’s proven on testing conditions, which it looks sure to be today.
Allmankind sets a decent standard though, he’s a flat bred horse and I have a tendency to oppose them in chases of this quality. Hitman could be anything and rates a big danger, though he lacks the experience of others and the track isn’t sure to suit. That will hopefully open the door for Eldorado Allen.
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With a few in this with plenty to prove, MASSEYS WOOD stands out after an impressive display last time at Down Royal. For an eight-year-old he’s very lightly raced and has some really strong form in the past, including beating The Conditional back in February 2018. Barry Connell has made a very good start to his training career and Masseys Wood can give him another winner here.
BENSON made his hurdles debut in a Listed race over course and distance against experienced hurdlers such as Quel Destin and Call Me Lord. Going off 66/1 that day was a fair reflection of the task he faced, but he managed to make an eye-catching move coming to the second last and looked like he was going to play a big part in the finish before the horse jinked and unseated his rider.
After that connections thrust him into a Grade 2 where he was well beaten. Coming back this season he has won two novice hurdles in workmanlike fashion and gets in here off a mark of 127 that looks like it underestimates him. With conditions likely to be very testing, it is also a positive that he has run well on heavy ground in the past and he looks to hold a good chance in this contest.
This Grade 1 contest looks a straight match between the beaten favourite from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Princess Noor and the very exciting ASTUTE, who steps up in trip. There was plenty to suggest that Astute might be something special from her win at Del Mar on her last start and stepping up to an extended mile will be a help to her on that evidence. Princess Noor had no excuse at Keeneland and just didn’t have enough when she faced proper rivals for the first time. I reckon she’ll be found wanting behind Astute as well.
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