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This is perhaps one of the most interesting races of the day with several of these lightly raced mares having one eye on the Cheltenham Festival, but needing to make another step forward in this Grade Three.
There is no one outstanding entry here based on past form, but there is no denying that Royal Kahala is going the right way following two comfortable wins here. This, of course, represents a hike in grade, but her strong travelling style makes her hard to put a ceiling to her rating. On bare form, Gauloise has achieved slightly less than Peter Fahey’s charge, but – because of connections – is right at the top of the ante-post lists for the Mares Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.
She did hit a flat spot during her last race at Thurles, but ultimately ran out a cosy winner from Mighty Blue. This is significantly harder though. However, despite KAPARD’s defeat last time out, Henry de Bromhead’s mare could be the each-way play now.
She was beaten fully 10 lengths by the Mullins’ mare in that contest, but it was a really messy affair with a stop-start pace. Just as the momentum quickened, she made a bad mistake which put her on the back foot. Thereafter, Rachael Blackmore wasn’t overly hard on her and she did stay on nicely again up the final climb. Her odds could make her the best value play in the line-up.
I thought that this seasoned pro wasn’t given the best of rides last time out at Chelmsford when he was hung out to dry at the back of the pack over a mile-and-a-quarter. MANDARIN then came with a wet sail off a moderate pace to finish a never nearer fifth, beaten just two-and-three-quarter lengths.
It is fair to say that the seven-year-old has flattered to deceive on more than one occasion over a this longer trip, but there have been excuses as well. However, if you go back to his win over 12 furlongs at Newmarket off a fast pace 18 months ago, there is little doubt that he sees out this trip well and just needs a better passage through the race.
That success came off a rating of 86 and with Oliver Stammers taking a 5lbs chunk off his back here, he has the opportunity to run off just 70 now. What he needs is to be hidden in mid-pack off an end-to-end gallop and to be produced as late as possible. If that scenario unfolds here, he could well be the value to see off the likes of top weight Bashful Boy and By Jove.
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I was desperately hoping to see the Flemensfirth gelding, Red Lion Lad, entered for this following his promising debut at Exeter. But, David Pipe has decided to side-step this contest instead, but I know he is very highly regarded by his in-form yard.
Bobhopeornohope looks ready for this step up in distance judged on his strong travelling victory over 2m 5f here last time out, while Ben Pauling was very disappointed by the Newbury run of The Cob following wins at Uttoxeter and Haydock Park.
However, this looks best left to FLASH COLLONGES, who finally gets a chance to get his stamina tested following two good runs at Newbury and Wincanton. Three outings back he was strongly fancied to beat Bobhopeornohope over slightly shorter here, but got no further than the fourth flight. The forecast deeper ground looks likely to suit him better than his old rival as does the extra yardage.
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