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Last-time-out winners Deluxe Range and Wetlands (preferred in that order) both look good enough to overcome penalties in novice hurdles before the end of the season, but the one to beat here is LORD OF KERAK. He found a Warwick Grade 2 a bit too hot last time, but was nicely in command in the closing stages at Uttoxeter two starts ago.
This is a drop in grade for BLACK PIRATE, who wasn’t at all disgraced in his first two runs over fences and he could benefit from wind surgery. Slanelough is feared most, though Discko Des Plages would be dangerous with an error-free round.
A weak race and Irish point winner Lady Tremaine needs a close look in the market back from a lengthy absence on her rules debut. Sandaroc has the best piece of hurdle form and is respected, but ROBIN DES THEATRE could be the answer. A point winner, she shaped well on her bumper debut and represents a stable with an excellent record with their runners here.
Age is no barrier to success in this race and the 11-year-old BIG RIVER (NAP) can boast strong form in classier contests than this, including at the last two Cheltenham Festivals. Although not at his very best in the Welsh National last time, he still ran with credit and finished narrowly ahead of last week’s Grand National Trial winner Lord Du Mesnil.
Sam’s Adventure can go well, but Salty Boy should finish in his vicinity and off a lower weight and at greater odds David Bridgwater’s eight-year-old is second choice.
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The two most solid candidates, in what’s mostly a tricky-looking field, are FRANSHAM – who’s run so well on his last three starts – and Hooligan who is contesting only his second handicap and brings potential.
11-year-old Clan Legend comes here in the best form of his career and today’s race looks a bit easier than the Sandown contest in which he was second three weeks ago. Danny McMenamin’s useful 3lb claim has expired in the meantime though, and preference today is for SEEMORELIGHTS.
He began his chasing career with two pleasing efforts at Ayr towards the end of last year and remains unexposed over fences. Informateur is next on the list, while Last Goodbye is one to keep an eye on in the betting.
It’s difficult to get away from FOSTER’SISLAND, who displayed a big jolt of improvement when winning by a wide margin at Carlisle on Monday and looks a long way ahead of the handicapper under a 7lbs penalty.
Early Morning Dew has made a very quiet start to his hurdling career, but the form he showed when fifth on his bumper debut in December has worked out well and he looks intriguing off a lowly mark on today’s handicap debut. Burrows Diamond also has some potential for improvement.
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