A few nice types take part in this maiden hurdle but none are as exciting as David Pipe’s Eden Du Houx.
A point-to-point winner in Monksgrange for James W. Doyle, he switched to Pipe before winning on his bumper debut at Plumpton and there is substance to that form with the second that day, On The Slopes, now being rated 128 over hurdles. Eden Du Houx then went to Ascot for a listed bumper and again was quite impressive in winning from the front.
The third that day, Glancing Queen, was 5th in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham festival before winning the grade 2 mares bumper at the Aintree festival, while the fourth, Enrilo, has done his bit for the form by winning his next two starts.
Eden Du Houx hasn’t been seen since that Listed bumper win last December but he returns with the Pipe stable in great form, as they have had 5 winners from their last 17 runners. The one small concern is that he has never run on good ground before but providing he handles it okay, he should prove difficult to beat.
A very competitive optional claiming handicap here but Staxton makes each way appeal here.
He was a very decent two year old, where after winning two of his first three starts he was campaigned at Listed & Group level, finishing behind the likes of Sands Of Mali, James Garfield and Speak In Colours. He started life in handicaps as a three year old off a mark of 101 and he was campaigned in decent handicaps, with a win at Newmarket off a mark of 99 being the highlight.
He spent most of this season trying to get his head in front in the best sprint handicaps and in June he managed to win over this course and distance off a mark of 95. He returns to Newcastle for the first time since that win off the exact same mark of 95 and we can assume he is in reasonable form, as only last month he finished midfield in the ultra-competitive Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 98.
Were he to repeat the level of form he produced for his win here in June, he would be very difficult to keep out of the frame at the very least.
There may only be five runners in this beginners chase but it looks a decent race with all five being rated 130+ over hurdles.
The Mighty Don is the highest rated hurdler in the field but his best efforts have come over three miles and I would be surprised if he had the pace to win dropped to this trip of slightly over 2 miles.
Southfield Stone was placed in the Grade One Tolworth Novices Hurdle last season and won the Grade 2 Dovecote Novice hurdle, wasn’t far off some of the best novice hurdlers last season and it would be no surprise were Paul Nicholls to improve this horse significantly now tackling fences. A relatively flat, right handed track is ideal for him and assuming his jumping holds up, he can take this en route to better things this season.