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2m Flat winner REPETITIO stayed on well for third in a 2m 3f handicap hurdle here last time out in March and could have untapped potential at today’s distance. Lucinda Russell has had a fantastic spring and last-time-out Ayr winner Grand Morning, who could have more to offer in the cheekpieces, is second choice.
Proschema, Colonial Dreams, Giovanni Change and Jersey Wonder are major players if transferring their fine recent form back to today’s forecast slower surface, but rain would be a firm negative for 2019 winner Canyon City. Sirobbie is an interesting contender on his first start for the in-form David Bridgwater, while Corrieben Reiver is bred to be suited by this step up in trip.
The attractively bred ALEAS won the final two of his three juvenile starts and is open to further improvement this year. One of those wins came on heavy ground so the forecast rain won’t be an issue.
All of his rivals have potential, but this could prove to be a test of stamina on the ground which may play to Rafiki’s strengths, and he is feared most ahead of North Of Amazing.
All of these have questions to answer. Brando will be hard to beat if on song, but he was inconsistent last year. A chance is taken on EXALTED ANGEL transferring his all-weather improvement to turf now back on slower ground.
Cape Byron was well beaten on his sole run last year, but was a soft-ground Group 3 winner in 2019. Meanwhile, Khaadem also has the form to play a leading role, but his peak efforts have come on good/good to firm ground.
Aintree protagonists Rowland Ward and Camprond are obvious contenders, along with the unexposed Copperless who was travelling well when falling two out in that competitive handicap. Shanroe, Historic Heart, Hooper and Nordic Combined arrive on the back of wins and have to be respected. Elsewhere, Celestial Force could be capable of better and Ballinsker represents Evan Williams, who has won four of the last seven runnings.
However, the one who appeals most is THISTIMENEXTYEAR (NAP) at the foot of the weights. He was unlucky in this race two years ago and could improve a bundle for last month’s run at Aintree, where he made headway in the straight then understandably tired on his first start for 667 days. Celestial Force is second choice, ahead of Nordic Combined.
Brian Meehan’s horses are in fine form and RAAEQ holds strong claims stepping out of handicaps. He was an impressive winner over 7 furlongs on soft ground at Ascot last October and reappeared with a creditable sixth off a lofty mark at Newbury.
Irish raider Current Option is a solid campaigner at this level and is feared most despite the 5lbs penalty. Tomfre enjoyed an excellent end to 2020 on soft and heavy ground, and is likely to have conditions in his favour for this reappearance.
Tim Easterby’s BOARDMAN probably found the ground too fast when a beaten favourite on his reappearance and this ex-French winner is given another chance. King Of Tonga looks the principal threat after returning to form at Musselburgh last week. Ffion is unbeaten and she also enters the picture.
The drop back in trip looks a plus for FRANCKY DU BERLAIS on this second start back from a break and he gets the nod ahead of Senior Citizen, who has run well in defeat the last twice in hotter handicaps than this. Fortified Bay’s claims will be boosted if conditions turn testing.
Two-time course winner EAMON AN CNOIC arrives on the back of a solid third place at Carlisle and is preferred to the progressive seven-year-old Exelerator Express. Go Long and Cracking Find are also in good form.
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