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With Angus Cheleda able to claim a very useful 6lbs against other conditionals, Chez Hans is very tempting. However, his breakthrough win at Taunton this month coincided with a move up to 2m 3f and today’s drop back to 2m may not be ideal.
Preference is for LIMELIGHTER, who made a pleasing seasonal debut on the Flat this month and has conditions to suit for today’s return to hurdling. Hydroplane should also feature.
Paul Nicholls’ ADRIEN DU POINT is no longer a potent force in major handicaps, but he won a small-field hunter chase very easily at Newbury last month and ought to be very hard to beat on a track he likes here. Envoye Special won a recent open point in good style and looks the main danger, but there are reasons to believe that Tom Barton can get closer to him than he did at Stratford last month.
Useful Flat-racer Seinesational showed enough to suggest he can win a novice hurdle when fourth at Ascot last month, but SAMARRIVE is probably the one to beat having shown a good level of form when winning a big-field maiden in France in December.
Today’s ground will be much faster, but Paul Nicholls knew that when he declared him. Kost A Coat, Chives and Theoule all have ability and are ones to watch with the future in mind.
All of these come here with something to prove, but MORTENS LEAM is selected to capitalise upon some help from the handicapper. Michael Hawker’s nine-year-old is usually ridden very patiently and, given the way the race panned out, was probably set an impossible task before staying on for a respectable sixth at Carlisle three weeks ago. Rebel Royal was out of form when last seen in the autumn, but will be dangerous off his current mark if the subsequent break has done him good.
This is much easier than the Grade 3 handicap Captain Morgs contested last month, but he hasn’t progressed since his winning hurdle debut at Ascot in October and may find MACKENBERG too strong here. Donald McCain’s six-year-old held his own in a 2m Grade 2 here in February and looks an interesting candidate for today’s step up in trip.
This could be a good opportunity for QUARENTA (NAP), who won after a break at Ascot in November, will be suited by today’s ground and can easily be forgiven for getting tired in a heavy-ground Listed handicap on his latest outing in December. Psychedelic Rock was raised only 3lbs for last month’s Doncaster win, but Templepark is more consistent and may provide the main threat to the selection.
Oscar Rose seemed to have taken her form to a new level when winning two chases by 20 plus lengths in the autumn and she needs only to transfer a proportion of that improvement back to this code to overcome her current hurdle mark. However, low-mileage six-year-old SWITCH HITTER collected a good prize over course and distance last month and is preferred.
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