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Mont Saint Vincent displayed a good attitude to win a 2m 6f maiden here last month and is a very obvious contender, but EQUUS DANCER made good progress in handicap chases last season and needs only to transfer a proportion of that improvement back to hurdles to win on these terms.
Grove Ash made a very promising racecourse debut at Newton Abbot five weeks ago and is also of significant interest.
This can go to YOU NAME HIM, who didn’t get home when making his handicap debut on heavy ground in the autumn, but was placed in two good-ground novice events before that and ought to have some improvement to come this year. Balkardy finished well from the rear to take third on his handicap debut in March and promises to be suited by today’s step up in trip. Major Robinson is next on the list.
Baratineur looked in excellent nick when scooting clear to win over hurdles at Chepstow in March, but it’s not certain he’ll be seen to the same effect here, given this is only the second chasing start in his long career.
Preference is for LERMOOS LEGEND, who shaped very much as though his turn might be near when second over a longer trip here last month. Snougar also has a significant role to play, while today’s drop back in trip might suit Dunbar.
The most obvious answer is LANDOFSMILES, who has been in superb form in recent weeks and is now bidding for his fourth win in a row. Aaron Lad disappointed over hurdles at Cheltenham last month, but reverts to chasing on a tempting mark and is feared most. Shantou Village hasn’t won for ages and would prefer the rain to stay away but is sure to appreciate today’s drop in grade.
IMPERIAL KNIGHT has some potential to progress from last month’s breakthrough win at Warwick. Bobhopeornohope and Morning Spirit were below par last time, but both have claims if judged on their earlier form.
This can go to HANG TOUGH, who posted a good effort at Wetherby two months ago and is still lightly raced over fences. Dual course and distance winner Robin Of Sherwood didn’t shine at Fakenham last week, but this track suits him well and he looks the biggest danger.
Clondaw Rigger was mounting a strong challenge before crashing out at the final fence at Chepstow last month and a big run from Lex Talionis (the winner of that race) in Division 1 of this contest will enhance his appeal here.
He’s not very consistent though, and the suggestion is TUDORS TREASURE, who is best known for his exploits over 2m 3f at Exeter but also runs this track well. Arthur’s Reuben has been in very good form lately and will be feared if the ground stays good.
Hexham winner Dynamite Kentucky ought to play a significant role, but this looks easier than the Sandown contest in which GALLANT COMMANDER travelled well for a long way in November and, if he settles better here, he might be the answer.
Bert Wilson made a promising debut at Carlisle and should also feature, while Good Greef might be worth a speculative each-way tickle if fancy odds are available.
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