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Plenty of these are not in form, including NEACHELLS BRIDGE, though there is a suspicion his two runs at Wincanton this season haven’t got to the bottom of him. He came in for a considerate ride on his reappearance at Wincanton and didn’t build on that as expected last time.
However, the handicapper has helped out (now 1lb below his last winning mark), and he could be set for a bigger performance now fitted with cheekpieces for red-hot stable. Eaton Hill deserves a change of luck and makes the shortlist also.
PRESENT MAN enhanced his good record when fresh when winning on return at Chepstow, but has been below form both starts since. He likely found the run at Warwick last time coming too soon after his midfield finish in the Badger Ales, but has been given plenty of time to get over that since and remains well treated for an in-form yard. He is taken to prove too strong for Sir Ivan, who is going through a consistent spell at present, and looks the likely danger.
UMBRIGADO is very much a chaser on the up, and gets the nod to defy the handicapper with this return to a longer trip in his favour. He improved again when winning a handicap over 2m at Wetherby last time, putting up a professional display, and a subsequent 5lbs rise may underestimate him.
The opposite applies to Senior Citizen, who didn’t get home over a longer trip on very testing ground in the Grand Sefton, but can make his presence felt from this mark back over shorter.
PROSCHEMA has proved his well-being by landing a pair of jumpers’ bumpers in recent weeks and there’s good chance there’s still more to come from him over hurdles. Based on his smart form on the Flat, he remains potentially well treated in this sphere, and has a handicap of this nature in him. Tegerek was going the right way when last seen in the autumn so also commands respect.
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Plenty with chances in an intriguing handicap. GASTARA came home in eye-catching style when third at Sandown last time, travelling as though on a good mark but just set too much to do. There should be even more to come from him, and his talented rider takes a valuable 5lbs off. Takeit Easy heads the list of dangers on the back of his fine Cheltenham sixth.
It’s impossible to look beyond HITMAN, who has created a very good impression in his 2 completed starts over fences, and this race will serve as an aperitif ahead of a potential tilt at the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 12 days time. With stablemate Getaway Trump due to run at Doncaster, Colonel Custard should claim second-place money ahead of Captain Cuckoo.
FAME AND CONCRETE looked something out of the ordinary when powering away to make a winning debut at Southwell in December in what were demanding conditions. He should be up to defying a penalty despite some interesting opposition.
Fellow last-time-out winner Silent Revolution looks an obvious threat for a top yard, while newcomers Young Butler and Our Jester are both appealing on pedigree and need monitoring in the market.
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