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Mister Watson will be hard to beat here if able to match the form of his 66/1 second at Sandown two starts ago, but he was an odds-on flop when last in action and needs to prove he’s effective on a sound surface. A safer option is SOPRAN THOR, who has made the frame on his last four hurdle starts and brings some solid handicap form to the table.
Unai posted a good effort when third in first-time cheekpieces at Uttoxeter three weeks ago, but has been known to hit a flat spot in his races and we can’t be sure the headgear will continue to keep him focused.
Preference is for WRITTENINTHESAND, who kept on well for second at Exeter on his latest outing and can hopefully jump with greater fluency here. R Bren ran well here on his chasing debut and is next on the list.
Rabski went close in a 1m 7f maiden last month and has plenty of scope for further improvement now back up in trip for his handicap debut, while the other handicap debutant Your Darling is very unexposed and also looks interesting.
However, THE KNOT IS TIED seemed to be right back in the groove when running very well in defeat at Doncaster last month, and he didn’t have the race run to suit when a beaten favourite at Wincanton a few weeks later.
There should be more to come from the youngster GOUET DES BRUYERES (NAP), who has shown improvement back on good ground the last twice. Second choice is Elisezmoi, who gives the impression this sharp 2m will suit. Darling Du Large and Larch Hill are also respected.
Ratfacemcdougall took his form to a new level when drawing clear for a ready success at Musselburgh last month, but has been treated sternly by the handicapper for that and probably needs an even bigger performance here. Preference is for course winner AIMEE DE SIVOLA, who has returned to form in recent weeks. Supremely Lucky should also make his presence felt.
Not many of these have appealing profiles, but FROM THE HEART won twice on a sound surface in October and travelled well for a long way when returning from a break last month. He gets the nod ahead of the veteran High Counsel, who ran really well in a recent 3m 5f marathon here and remains very well handicapped on some of last season’s form.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Father John has to overcome a long absence, but he can’t be left out of calculations, especially if strong in the betting. Closely matched rivals Hiway One O Three and Earth King are open to progress, while Dragoon Springs went close last time.
In a deep-looking race, the suggestion is the debutant DALAMOI who is a half-brother to five winners, notably three-time Grade 1 winner Don Poli. Most of the newcomers have interesting credentials and any market moves should be heeded.
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