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A big majority of these appear to be viable contenders. Fawsley Spirit looks very well handicapped judged on his Doncaster second three weeks ago but he’s been around for a while and may well be vulnerable to improvement among his rivals.
Soyouthinksoagain and the extremely unexposed Blame The Game are two of the interesting candidates stepping up in trip. Many others have basically proved their stamina already and slight preference is for two of those in POPPA POUTINE and Morning Spirit who could both prove suited by the switch to this stiffer track.
The best form belongs to CARIBEAN BOY and last season’s Grade 1 Scilly Isles winner Itchy Feet. With doubts about Itchy Feet’s jumping, preference is for the Nicky Henderson-trained 6yo who won a Grade 2 novice chase at Newbury last month.
A return to winning ways could be forthcoming for ENRICHISSANT, who won easily on heavy ground in February and is now back on a testing surface after a solid run on good to soft last time. Bennys King went close here on his final outing last season and is feared most, ahead of Smarty Wild who has potential back up in trip today. There are several others to consider in an open race, however, including last month’s easy Exeter winner Saint De Vassy.
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A length and a half separated the winner THYME HILL (NAP) from Paisley Park in the Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month and the runner-up is 3lbs better off today. However, Thyme Hill’s star is firmly on the rise and he’s taken to post a second Grade 1 win, to add to last season’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle.
Paisley Park is the obvious danger, although Roksana receives a handy 7lbs mares’ allowance and could also be involved, while very testing conditions would play to the strengths of Main Fact, who is one of the stories of the season.
Heavy ground would ask a slightly different question of him, but THE CONDITIONAL is probably still capable of improvement following his strong-travelling third in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury. Beware The Bear and Regal Encore (a dual winner of this race) were among those who did not fare so well in that top Newbury race but they are taken very seriously today.
Greater threats could emerge, however, from Quarenta, who left a favourable impression with his C&D reappearance win and may be the chief danger, and the unexposed ex-French 6yo Enfant Roi who needs to jump round but could be well suited by this new trip if he does so.
Winning so stylishly over course and distance four weeks ago ensured clear ante-post favouritism for Buzz in this race but there are other noteworthy contenders. Last year’s runaway winner Not So Sleepy is as interesting as any, admittedly not for all the right reasons given his errant display when returned to hurdling but he is a serious talent on his day.
Benson goes very well in the mud and is on a roll, Arrivederci has shaped well this season and the experienced Irish novice Belfast Banter should be noted. The vote, however, ahead of Buzz and Belfast Banter, goes to the four-year-old NIGHT EDITION who ran so well at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen and surely starts this second season hurdling with significant potential.
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