We kick off the TV schedule with a novice chase and stamina will win the day here for sure. Big River needs to be forgiven for a fibrillation of his heart at Haydock last time. I would not normally advise backing a horse with that sort of doubt, however I know how highly the Lucinda Russell team rate this horse so I am sticking with him.
This is a qualifier for the festival in March and horses need to finish in the first six to qualify. The Organist was a really good winner on soft ground last time at Newbury and will be fancied to follow up here. However, I like No Hassle Hoff here for the Skelton’s who ran a blinder behind Sam Spinner at Haydock last time.
This has been a real pointer for the Cheltenham Festival with Willoughby Court and The New One winning here before going there. Nicky Henderson really likes Mr Whipped. He won his point to point at Lingstown on soft ground where he beat Flawless Escape who has franked the form in Ireland. Paisley Park claimed the scalp of Vision Des Flos at Hereford and could be the improver. Mr Whipped to win.
The classic chase was won by One For Arthur last year en route to Grand National glory. This year is going to be a slog in drying ground & confirmed stayers need only apply!!
Sir Mangan travelled really well and jumped beautifully at Bangor. His second place behind Beer Goggles at Newton Abbot reads well now too. He is my selection here with Missed Approach a big danger with cheek pieces back on after running too free in the blinkers in the Old Hennessy at Newbury. Krakatoa King will stay and that will be massive. This really is a pure contest but I just favour Sir Mangan.
We have a great chase to kick things off with lots of familiar names. Josses Hill loves to bowl along and those tactics will be employed here. Smad Place is another who loves to do the same and that will help Waiting Patiently as he likes to pick the pieces up. I would love to see him win for his connections so I’m going with him here.
River Frost has the strongest form on offer here with that run at Chepstow in the Silver Trophy. Old Guard, Sam Spinner, Wholestone and Louis Vac Pouch have all won that finished near him. He took victory on this track last year off a mark 12lbs lower but this is harder with William Henry and Diesse Des Bieffes representing Nicky Henderson.
William Henry is very highly thought of and back over hurdles could be the answer with top claimer James Bowen up so I think he’ll take it for Nicky Henderson. Wishful Dreaming is the each way selection here as tongue tied for its first run for Ollie Murphy. This horse has some good form that ties in behind Brain Power and a replication of that would see this horse in the frame.
BallyAlton will appreciate this slightly better ground but has a tough nut to crack with Fountains Windfall who has fallen at the last twice when in pole position in good races. This one won a smart handicap hurdle at Aintree in April off a mark of only 9lbs lower so Fountains Windfall should win here with a clear round.
1.50pm – Big River @4/1
2.25pm – No Hassle Hoff @ 5/1
3.00pm – Mr Whipped @ 11/8
3.35 – Sir Mangan @ 7/1
2.05pm – Waiting Patiently @ 7/4
2.40pm (The Lanzarote) – William Henry @ 6/1
3.15pm – Fountains Windfall @11/10
*All prices correct at time of posting