* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
The most striking contender is the unexposed six-year-old BLAZING PORT, who is closely related to a smart jumper at up to 3m 1f and showed clear promise with his two runner-up efforts in Hexham novice events in the autumn.
He looks on a fair mark for this handicap debut and is open to progress taking a big step up in trip. Most of the others come with risks attached, but Scoop The Pot has been running well over fences and hurdles since November and he’s feared most on his drop back in distance.
Top of the list is FOURTH OF JULY, who proved something of a revelation after wind surgery when bolting up over course and distance three weeks ago and has plenty of scope for further progress in this sphere.
The main danger is another unexposed chaser in Dandolo Du Gite, who was a clear second behind a big improver at Catterick last time. Lucinda Russell won this race in 2017 and 2019 and the pick of her two runners could be the 12-year-old Vengeur De Guye, who is on a dangerous mark and is a dual course winner.
It’s hard to rule out many of these but preference is for CLAUD AND GOLDIE, who hit a personal best when beating a clear second here on his reappearance last month. There was also a subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner back in third that day.
Red Infantry battled well to land the Grimthorpe last time and he’s feared most, though both Dandy Dan and Kitty’s Light should appreciate this return to forecast quicker ground and they look interesting on their switch back to chasing.
Doyen Breed is open to more progress at staying trips, but preference is for the major improver SULTANS PRIDE, who made it three wins from his last four runs when scoring in good style back from wind surgery at Doncaster. Mr Harp is respected on this drop back in class, while the other one on the shortlist is Cap Du Nord who looks interesting off a dangerous mark on his return to hurdling.
Preference is for Dan Skelton’s lightly raced six-year-old ACROSS THE LINE (NAP), who ran really well when a clear second under a double penalty at Doncaster last month and is open to more progress off what looks a workable mark on his handicap debut.
Hasanabad is 3lbs out the weights, but this useful Flat-racer still has potential in this sphere and he could be the main danger on his switch back to faster ground.
The vote goes to DANSE IDOL, who showed a good attitude when winning a Southwell handicap 19 days ago and is open to further progress for a top yard. Pink Legend looks a much more likely threat than Flower Of Scotland.
The market should be highly informative and at this stage the tentative vote goes to FIRTH OF FORTH, who makes quite a bit of appeal on paper and represents an in-form yard with a record of 2-2 in bumpers here in the last two seasons. Dan Skelton’s Elevenerife and Warren Greatrex’s Bolsover Bill are feared most in that order, though another to keep an eye on is Ceejaythedeejay.
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