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Having run well on his seasonal reappearance, Maison D’Or should be competitive in his bid to repeat last year’s success in this race. However, he sits on a stiff mark so preference is for AIRGEAD SUAS, who may have been fortunate to win last time, but is improving and may well enjoy this longer distance. Camile and Three Ways look the best of the rest.
Hurdling debutants Ring Of Gold and Temper Trap are worth a market check, but there are two previous winners in this in Genever Dragon and Gold Desert, and a twice-placed hurdling maiden in MAGNA MORALIA. John Quinn’s juvenile, who ran a good race on the Flat last time, is taken to make it third-time lucky over hurdles.
It’s not easy to be confident about many of these, so the vote goes to ARMATTIEKAN (NAP) who has been in form with a win and second already this month. Diamond Rock, who had an excuse last time, Dido and Getaway North can battle it out for minor honours.
Although Snookered is probably better than he has shown so far over fences, a more likely winner is BIRCHDALE, a classy novice hurdler who was disappointing on his chasing debut but is reported to have been pleasing Nicky Henderson in recent schooling sessions.
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If the Sue Smith team had been among the winners then Frimeur De Lancray would have got the verdict, having shaped well until falling at the last course and distance 11 months ago, but his absence has to be a worry with the stable yet to hit top form this season. He’s taken on with the prolific STORMIN NORMAN, who made a successful start to his hurdle career last month. The selection’s new stablemate Penpal, who won his final start in France, and fair bumper performer Against All Odds are also on the shortlist.
The reappearing Ask Paddy goes without the cheekpieces which coincided with an improved run of form at the beginning of the year, so it’s perhaps best to look elsewhere. BRIAN BORANHA was behind Red Giant in the Durham National last time, but enjoys an 8lb pull in the weights with Jennie Candlish’s charge and is taken to turn the tables in the hope that first-time cheekpieces have a positive effect. The well-handicapped I Just Know should strip fitter with his reappearance behind him and is another who can’t be discounted.
The fact THE BOMBER LISTON was sent off a warm favourite on debut suggesting he’s well regarded, and he has the potential to leave that bare form behind now. Flammarion is open to improvement on the back of his Ayr debut success, while Gregor, Gentleman Valley, Geonice and Killane are newcomers to note in the market in quite an interesting bumper.
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