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Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing since his easy win at Ffos Las in November, SENDING LOVE has had tough assignments in two of his last three starts and he sets a clear standard here on his peak form.
He should be hard to beat if he can get back somewhere near his best, and his yard has won three of the last four runnings of this race. The pick of the opposition could be Morfee, who stayed on well when runner-up at Sandown last month and is open to progress over this much stiffer stamina test.
Full Back is a big player if he can bounce back on this return to much calmer waters, but his jumping let him down at Ascot last time. Preference is for course winner COOLANLY, who travelled strongly for a long way when a clear second in a Class 3 handicap at Ludlow 16 days ago.
Triple hurdle winner Premier D’troice should have a future over fences, but he’s a mercurial type and this looks a tough enough starting point in this sphere.
Gary Moore has a couple of interesting contenders in Ballydoyle and Big Jimbo and they need watching in the market. Commander Miller was a fair third under a positive ride at Warwick 17 days ago and has claims if he can build on that, but the one that appeals most is NYE BEVAN (NAP). He has been knocking on the door in good-ground handicaps in his last two starts and still looks on a workable mark.
Question marks against all four, and in the case of FACT OF THE MATTER a more recent sighting than last September might have been preferable. An effectiveness around idiosyncratic tracks, a mark 8lbs below his last winning one and the thinness of the competition for a Class 3 nevertheless all help give him the nod over Ocean Cove – who’d be feared if able to return to the level of February’s Doncaster success.
It’s noticeable that last week’s Plumpton score in a visor was Good News’s second in debuted headgear this term, and the effects of the cheekpieces weren’t especially sustained after the first of these.
With that in mind, it may be worth taking him on with LAWTOP LEGEND, who starts out for Dr Richard Newland off a highly exploitable mark and with trip and conditions just as he prefers. Emmas Dilemma rounds out the shortlist.
It’s hard not to regard this contest as DILIGENT versus his recent itinerary rather than the opposition or double penalty, considering the former doesn’t look especially threatening (unless the down-in-trip Vital Sign takes him on up front) and the latter still pales next to the RPR of 129 he recorded at Newcastle last weekend.
Should the selection fail to fire, Episode seems the most logical beneficiary in an identical contest to that of her recent course and distance score.
Still improving if judged on rising RPRs despite two defeats so far this term, I HOPE STAR has been found a good opportunity to record a second bumper success. Alexander Thorne’s 5lbs claim helped smoothed the path to victory on another penalised Neil King runner at Doncaster last month, and similarly negates most of the Casamento gelding’s 7lbs additional imposte here. Stable debutant Second Subaltern (if settling) and Independence are feared most in that order.
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