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David Bridgwater’s eight-year-old DRAKES WELL ran to a fair level of form when second on his first two hurdle starts (once over course and distance) and probably won’t need to improve to go one better today. Wireless Operator is earmarked as the most likely danger, although it’s fair to say he has been rather disappointing since his promising bumper debut in 2019.
This uncompetitive chase provides a good opportunity for the old-timer ONLY GORGEOUS to collect his first win since 2017. Sue Gardner’s 12-year-old was eventually pulled up in a heavy-ground stamina test at Exeter last time, but he ran well for a long way there and today’s much faster ground will be more suitable for him.
Furthermore, he’s now 10lbs lower than when placed over course and distance in November. Second choice is Friends Don’t Ask, who gained his breakthrough win two starts ago and will find this much easier than his latest assignment.
Another chance is readily given to FIDELIO VALLIS, who was left toiling by the all-the-way winner when second on his chasing debut in December. But, he was a very useful novice hurdler last year and remains a good prospect. Ar Mest wasn’t at his best last time, but has the ability to make a race of this.
There should be more to come from Tamaris, who was third in two juvenile hurdles in the autumn and now makes his handicap debut. But, BASHFUL BOY had a handful of subsequent winners behind him when winning a course and distance novice event in September and ran very well in defeat on his recent handicap debut at Newbury. He gets the vote.
Away For Slates won over course and distance nine days ago and is the one with least to prove, but preference is for WENCESLAUS. He has slipped to a good mark and will appreciate today’s drop in grade.
Celtic Joy wasn’t in very good form when last seen in the autumn, but will be dangerous at this level if back on song after his break.
Oliver Sherwood’s JERSEY WONDER is not obviously well treated for today’s handicap debut if judged on his second in a soft-ground 2m 1f maiden here 19 days ago, but he remains unexposed over hurdles and his useful form over staying trips on the Flat suggests this combination of trip and ground can enable significant improvement in this sphere.
Game Socks needs to prove he’s fully effective on a sound surface but is feared most. Meanwhile, there are reasons to believe the Milton Harris-trained runners, If Karl’s Berg Did and Presenting Yeats, can both better their latest efforts.
Clondaw Robin earns pretty good marks for his consistency this season, but today’s quicker ground may not be ideal for him and this can go to EPISODE (NAP). She ran very well when placed off a 1lb higher mark at Leicester four weeks ago and might be seen to even better effect now back on a sound surface.
Carole’s Tzarina showed enough on her two Polytrack starts to suggest she can win a run-of-the-mill bumper such as this, but slight preference is for FURLOUGH ME. He ought to build upon his promising debut at Wincanton 18 days ago.
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