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A fairly useful winning hurdler in the 2018/19 season, ENCORE CHAMPS matched that level of form over fences for Warren Greatrex last term. His best performance coming when landing the odds in a Fakenham handicap chase in December 2019. He has been off the track for 11 months but has won off a break before, so he makes plenty of appeal now back hurdling on his first start for Dan Skelton’s yard.
Useful in a light career over hurdles, TAMAROC DU MATHAN looked a chaser with graded-race potential in making a winning debut over fences at Wincanton in November – jumping superbly and in command in the straight with his rider nearly motionless.
He was no match for Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at this venue in December, but few, if any, would be. He ran a fine race on just his second start over fences. He is likely to progress further in this sphere and this looks a good opportunity for him to open his account at Graded level.
A useful performer on the Flat, running to a Timeform rating of 100+ on each of his starts last year, TRITONIC made the perfect start to his National Hunt career when landing a juvenile hurdle at Ascot last month. He was not as clued up as the runner-up, but his stamina helping him pull the race out of the fire late on. He is an exciting recruit to the hurdling ranks and is sure to win more races in this sphere.
ATHOLL STREET was well held on his sole start in bumpers in January 2020, but he has proved an entirely different proposition since being sent hurdling this term. He made a successful debut over obstacles at Taunton in November, before following up over the same course and distance the following month – winning both races in good style.
He showed more professionalism on the latter occasion too, looking ready for a step up in grade and with further improvement anticipated, he gets the vote to bring up the hat-trick.
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A winner at Newton Abbot on his return to action in October, AL DANCER ran as well as he ever has over fences to finish third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November. He took the demands of the race well and sticking to his task with equal aplomb.
He disappointed at the same venue in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last time, but he is capable of bouncing back following a break. With this step up to 3m likely to a positive rather than a negative, he certainly features towards the top of the shortlist.
OURO BRANCO has been much improved since being switched to fences, making it three wins from four starts in this sphere with a ready success at Wincanton on his return to action in December, impressively having the race won from a long way out. He finished an excellent second at Newbury last time, shaping well stepped up in trip.
He still looks well handicapped given how well his Wincanton win has worked out – three subsequent winners having emerged from that race – and another bold showing is on the cards here.
Purchased for €46,000, WILD WILBUR makes plenty of appeal ahead of his debut. A Presenting Percy gelding who is a brother to two winners, including the useful Champagne Gold. He should have enough speed to cope with this sort of test. Also, given those with previous form do not set too high a standard, he looks worth siding with to make a successful debut.
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