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This ought to be straightforward for SHANTOU FLYER, who has been placed at the last three Cheltenham Festivals and is dropped significantly in grade. Minella Daddy has some very useful form on his CV, but he was brushed aside before the turn for home after making the running in a Ffos Las handicap last month and his current ability is very hard to gauge. Keltus ran reasonably well at Market Rasen a fortnight ago and may provide a bigger threat to the selection.
It’s been a while since his only chase win, but AIR NAVIGATOR has a pretty good record at this track and returns here after running well at Haydock two weeks ago. Billy Bronco will be a tough nut to crack if able to replicate the form of his last-time-out Wetherby second, but he’s not one to rely upon heavily.
None of these are bulletproof. Catchin Time is the only one coming here on the back of a good run so he cannot be totally ruled out, but it might be worth hoping refitted cheekpieces can help NORTHERN BOUND spring back to form. Gateway To Europe is next best, ahead of Manjaam.
The one with most potential is GRAIN DE THAIX (NAP), who is unexposed after only six career starts and seemed to be getting his act together when third at Huntingdon last month. The other five-year-old Arizona Glory is still a maiden after 14 starts, but earns good marks for his consistency this season and is feared most.
Valseur Du Granval is nothing like the force of old, but his latest run offered hope he might be ready to capitalise upon some considerable help from the handicapper.
Get The Appeal is a solid contender, but she is vulnerable to a better treated rival and BREAKING WAVES is narrowly preferred with his latest second suggesting his turn wasn’t far away. Cage Of Fear is best of the rest
A tendency to find one stronger is a slight worry, but CASA LOUPI has much the best form on offer and will be hard to beat. Confirmation Bias is the obvious danger but Songo was a triple Flat winner and shouldn’t be ruled out.
There is every chance that Scanning is a lot better than he looked here on Boxing Day, but he needs to improve markedly if he is going to match LE CHIFFRE D’OR, who showed promise on his debut and should have learnt from that.
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