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Last year’s Stayers Hurdle hero Lisnagar Oscar makes his return to action in this Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle, but along with last year’s winner, Emitom, has a penalty to carry. That makes this a wide-open renewal and the well-backed ante-post favourite Itchy Feet looks the most likely improver among the field of eight acceptors.
Olly Murphy’s charge has been running well over fences this season behind the likes of Ryanair Chase contender Imperial Aura and the classy Dashel Drasher. As a novice hurdler, the son of Cima De Triomphe had always shaped like a stayer particularly when a running on second in the Triumph Hurdle behind Klassical Dream. This extra yardage should be right up his street and he remains open to more improvement on his first start over three miles on only his seventh hurdles start.
This is going to be a real slug fest on deep, clawing ground over three and a half miles and Classic Chase winner Notachance has an obvious chance at the head of the market such was the stamina he showed down the home stretch that day when looking beaten three fences from home. A 7lbs penalty looks fair enough for the Alan King charge and I know that the Barbury Castle trainer expects a huge run.
However, he is priced accordingly and off level weights course specialist Lord Du Mesnil is the call at twice the price.
The handicapper has relaxed his rating by 3lbs which means he is only 2lbs higher than when a length-and-a-half second to Smooth Stepper in this race last year. Far from disgraced when ninth of 18 in the Welsh National last time out (would have been a lot closer but for clouting the third last) the Merseyside track is his domain and he can add a third course win to his CV.
Of the many handicaps up for grabs on the Berkshire card, old Regal Encore, who loves this course and distance will do well to give weight away all round in the three-mile chase with the likes of the progressive Newtide and Yalltari in opposition.
However, it is the Phillip Hobbs’ runner Jerrysback that catches the eye off a mark of 142 under former champion jockey Richard Johnson. The selection returned from 399-day absence with a cracking third of 14 behind Dashel Drasher over 2m5f here four weeks ago and this step up in distance should be perfect for him off the same mark.
It is worth remembering that he ran the classy Vinndication to a length and a half off level weights in his novice year here and he could still develop into a 150+ rated staying chaser.
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Southfield Harvest and Es Perfecto are two novices almost certainly better than their current handicap marks suggest, the last a likely runner in the Albert Barlett next month if he runs well here, but back over hurdles the Welsh raider could run well at a mighty price off his feather weight.
It seems that the selection has just become a bit stale running over fences with two hugely disappointing runs this season. A handicap mark of 122 back over timber is very enticing and if Adam Wedge can get Present Value into a good rhythm in the middle of the pack I fancy he will significantly outperform his odds.
With question marks around the market leaders Clan Des Obeaux and Lostintranslation, it could be that Paul Nicholls will land his 10th Denman Chase with his second string. The key to his chance is the ground. If the weather forecast is correct we could actually get a going description as quick as good to soft and that will suit this smart staying chaser much better than his higher-rated rivals.
Secret Investor simply jumps on a spring surface and also has that vital asset of a turn of foot at the end of three miles on such a surface. If the ground did ride significantly slower then The Conditional would be the alternative on route to Cheltenham and the Grand National.
The most obvious play here is the Thyestes Handicap Chase hero Coko Beach, but he had a hard race that day and will do well to bounce back after a four-week rest.
I fancy a huge run from the nine-year-old Forza Milan. He was in the process of running a massive race behind the classy pair Eklat De Rire and Escaria Ten in the Naas Business Course Novice Chase last month before literally demolishing the second last fence.
Kevin Brouder made a wonder sit that day and allowed his mount to coast home, eventually finishing a distant fourth. Paul Townend takes over in the saddle here and I expect him to try and make this a deep test of stamina from some way out.
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