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This doesn’t look the strongest race of its type, and hurdling newcomer GREENROCK ABBEY is taken to make a winning start under Rules for Alan King. He was a £65,000 purchase after winning his sole start in Irish points, and represents a yard that do well with such types, so is expected to take full advantage of this good opening. Soldiers Hall, on first start for Olly Murphy, looks the biggest danger.
You can make a case for all four, but it would be no surprise to see the well-built SMITH’S BAY quickly leave his hurdling form behind now chasing on his return for Alan King and he gets the vote. On the form of his 8-length success in a novice hurdle at Warwick last season, he looks fairly treated now handicapping over the larger obstacles. He is worth chancing against Francky du Berlais, who was only beaten by a well-treated sort.
This isn’t a great race and doesn’t appeal as a strong betting heat, so a tentative vote goes to CHANCE IT – who comes out top on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings. He attracted support when hitting the frame in a stronger race at Exeter last time, taking a step forward but not landing a blow.
He will get stronger handling now back under a professional jockey and should be thereabouts. Last year’s winner Flanagans Field is feared with a reappearance spin under his belt.
Anthony Honeyball remains in good form and LE COEUR NET is one to be interested in. He didn’t need to improve to win a handicap from a 3lbs lower at Wincanton on Boxing Day, and for all he was disappointing on his final start over this course and distance, he still looks fairly treated and has gone well fresh in the past. He looks the percentage call ahead of last-time-out winner Court Duty, who looks well treated turned out under a 7lbs penalty.
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There should be better to come from JUNGLE PROSE now faced with a stiffer test and pitched into a handicap for the first time. Indeed, she did well to finish as close as she did when runner-up in a two-mile novice here last time.
That was just her second start in this sphere, and given she is out of an unraced sister to Oscar Whiskey, there should be more to come. Midnight Glance got the better of Andapa in a course and distance handicap on the same card a fortnight ago and is the clear main danger.
CYCLOP bolted up back over fences at Chepstow seven days ago and looks a standout here able to race from the same mark. He took advantage of a reduced mark on that occasion and remains with plenty of scope from a handicapping perspective, so is very hard to oppose.
The Olly Murphy-trained FRIARY LAND is interesting now stepping back up markedly in trip for his second handicap start. He hasn’t been with this yard long, who are a very astute outfit, and he will relish the longer trip here. He looks well handicapped and is preferred to recent course runner-up Corrie Lake, who remains fairly treated.
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