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LOUGHAN shaped very encouragingly on his two starts over hurdles last term, finishing third at Huntingdon and second at this venue, residual greenness perhaps costing him the win on the latter occasion. He was given a considerate reintroduction to racing at Carlisle last month, no threat but not knocked about, and with more surely to come from him, he appeals as very much the one to beat.
A wining pointer, WRITTENINTHESAND didn’t show an awful lot over hurdles last season, but he improved on his first outing over fences at Market Rasen last month – shaping with a lot more encouragement having made the quick switch to chasing, finishing fifth. He is entitled to do much better now he’s up and running in this sphere, and with Tom George’s yard in good form at present, he looks worth siding with.
LOUGH RYN has a 20-month absence to overcome, but he has undergone a wind operation since his last outing. He looks to have been given a bit of a chance by the assessor on his reappearance.
Neil Mulholland’s charge never really built on the promise of his hurdle debut, but he did shape better than the bare result suggests on his final outing, prominent for a long way but getting tired late on. He has a good chance on the pick of his form and looks a player at the prices.
A winner of back-to-back races at Southwell and Aintree at the beginning of last season, ASHOKA returned from a 12-month absence with an encouraging effort at Market Rasen last month, probably in need of the run but shaping better than the distance beaten suggests, short of room on the home turn. He makes appeal from what looks a good mark.
WILLIAM HENRY was a very smart hurdler for Nicky Henderson, his wins including the 2019 Coral Cup at Cheltenham, and more recently a Grade 2 at Fontwell in February. His first start over fences ended unfortunately, pulled up after his saddle slipped.
However, he remains with potential in this sphere, and is the pick of these in terms of hurdle form. He is having his first run for Sam Thomas here and gets the vote to make a successful stable debut.
DOLCITA quickly progressed into a fairly useful hurdler for Willie Mullins last term, opening her account in impressive fashion at Tramore, before finishing third in a Fairyhouse Grade 3 and second in the Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. She looks set to progress further this season and should have little trouble making a winning start for Paul Nicholls’ yard.
KNIGHT COMMANDER showed much improved form to take apart a handicap at this venue last month, recapturing his best form and coming readily clear of a pair who were prominent in the betting. He improved again to follow up under a penalty at Exeter subsequently, quickening in the run-in to win readily. He failed to land the hat-trick when unseating his rider at Taunton last time, but that run is easily excused, and he looks worth another chance on the evidence of his two previous outings.
HEAD LAD has rejoined Jonjo O’Neill’s yard after a short spell with Dan Skelton – during which time he won a lady riders event at Market Rasen. He shaped encouragingly on his first outing back with his former yard at Taunton last time, being caught in a pocket turning for home preventing him from laying down more of a challenge. He can race off the same mark here and is clearly one to look out for.
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