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There are nagging concerns about the suitability of today’s ground for CAPTAIN BIGGLES, but he bumped into very useful rivals when second on his first two starts over hurdles and will be hard to beat here if he handles the conditions. Richard Newland’s new recruit Game Socks was runner-up on his final start in Ireland and looks the main danger.
Edwardstone and Thebannerkingrebel were very useful novice hurdlers last season and both have the potential to do very well in novice chases this season. However, STRATAGEM has the benefit of experience over fences and, having jumped well at Warwick last month, he is selected in the hope he can dominate from the front.
Course specialist DING DING has become very well handicapped and can improve on last season’s third in this race when rated 10lb higher. Midnightreflection is next on the list.
Chris Gordon’s SMURPHY ENKI had to settle for second when odds-on for his hurdling debut at Chepstow last month but that race became tactical, and he could be hard to catch here if reverting to the front-running role he adopted when showing useful bumper form. Course bumper winner On My Command ran well in defeat on her hurdle debut and is second choice, ahead of Wargrave.
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Course winner Sirop De Menthe was very much in contention before his penultimate-flight fall at Ffos Las last month and is respected off the same mark today, but KENYAN COWBOY (NAP) comes here after running well for a long way in two slow-ground Chepstow maidens and is taken to make a winning handicap debut. Northern Poet was a shade disappointing on his handicap debut at Ascot, but can fare better in this easier race.
It’s hard to rule out many of these in this open race but the vote goes to BALLYMAGROARTY BOY, who looks a big player on his close second over 3m 2f at Chepstow in October and ran respectably over a marathon trip at Hexham last time. Smuggler’s Blues and Rumble B are feared most, though Special Acceptance caught the eye with his staying-on third at Hereford and could make a serious impact if he can find some extra spark in first-time cheekpieces.
Datsalrightgino made a solid start with his third at Market Rasen in September and he’s respected along with Sheldon, who was not beaten far in his two runs last term. Gelino Bello is an interesting newcomer for Paul Nicholls, while Piaff Bubbles also looks the part on paper. However, the vote goes to GALURIN, who showed plenty of promise in France in the first half of this year and has joined a top yard with a 44% record in bumpers this season.
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