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Highly likely this will go to a newcomer, with ECHO POINT just about the most appealing on paper (dam won both of her starts at Kempton, including on debut, and is a half-sister to a couple of smart performers). Charlie Appleby gets plenty of first-time winners on the all-weather and Echo Point is sure to be popular. Laos, Dirham Emirati and Pirouette Queen also have something to recommend them and the market will be revealing.
This looks a competitive handicap but strong preference is for STARSHIBA, who was a very convincing winner over seven furlongs at this course last week. He is from a good family, and belatedly built on his previous promise to open his account in some style, value for more than the one and a quarter length margin.
Starshiba was suited by a stronger gallop than he got at Lingfield the time before, looking threatening for much of the straight before taking the lead in the final 100 yards. That performance also reinforced the opinion that he will have no trouble staying a mile and could even improve further for it.
This looks wide open, so a chance is taken on ICONIC BELLE, who is in better form than her recent form figures suggest. She shaped well over a trip too far at Newcastle last time, still close up around three furlongs out but weakened out of proceedings when the race began in earnest in the final furlong. The assessor has dropped her a further 2 lb after that effort and Iconic Belle is starting to look very well handicapped now.
The significant drop in trip isn’t a concern (multiple winner over this distance) and the booking of Kevin Stott for the first time is another plus.
It’s hard to knock CHARLIE ARTHUR’s record on the all-weather and he’s taken to go one place better than at Chelmsford last month. He proved at least as good as ever on that occasion, beaten only narrowly by one who has a very positive record at Chelmsford. Charlie Arthur can clearly be competitive from this sort of mark and looks set to launch another bold bid in an open race.
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Simon Hodgson’s runner had displayed ability in minor events last year, and was well backed to make a winning handicap debut over this course and distance last week, scoring with any amount in hand. Admittedly, that was a weak three-year-old handicap, and more will be required to follow up in this better company under a 6 lb penalty, but TWILIGHT MADNESS was so dominant on that occasion he is hard to oppose. The visual impression was backed up by an excellent timefigure and he remains with plenty of scope for further improvement.
Stuart Williams’ runner was beaten only by the progressive Starshiba over this course and distance last week and looks an obvious player here from the same mark. EQUITATION was relatively easy to back that day, but he settled much better than on his previous start while also proving his stamina for this trip.
He remains 6 lb below his last winning mark and the trainer remains in good form, so there is plenty to like about his chances now with Marco Ghiani, who is excellent value for his 3 lb claim, taking over in the saddle.
TINSMITH remains a maiden both on the Flat and over hurdles, but seemed well suited by the step up to this trip in this sphere when beaten only by a well-handicapped sort who returned to form at Lingfield last time. He showed more than enough to suggest he can win a race of this nature and looks the percentage call in this field from a 1 lb higher mark.
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