Minnie Escape showed improved form to justify good support when winning over C&D last week, beating a couple of these rivals, and she has an obvious chance under a 7lb penalty. She does not have a solid profile, so there is some doubt about whether she will follow it up, but that Chepstow form just about sets the standard and she hails from a yard in form, so edges the vote.
McFabulous took high rank in the bumper division last season, winning three of his four outings, including a Grade 2 at Aintree, and he is an exciting prospect. Trainer Paul Nicholls has hit form in recent days and it will be disappointing if McFabulous is beaten on his hurdles debut. Silver Hallmark shaped nicely on debut when finishing third behind McFabulous and is rated as a leading threat.
The Ogle Gogle Man turned in a disappointing performance on his final start last season, beating only one home at Fontwell, but he experienced a largely positive campaign, scoring twice and finishing runner-up on another two occasions. Shoddy jumping has been an issue, but he was generally progressive and looks fairly treated on his return, so he gets the verdict vote over The Manuscript, who is lightly raced and open to improvement in this sphere.
Oathkeeper has continued to drop in the weights since joining Jonjo O’Neill from Joseph O’Brien, but he offered something to work with when finishing fifth back over hurdles at Exeter last time. He made good late headway at Exeter, finishing with running left, and is well treated if able to build on that effort. Just A Thought ran with promise on her return here last month and should be suited by this stiffer test.
Way Out West has an experience edge over most of his rivals and has shown fair form over fences for the Robert Walford yard after joining from Charlie Longsdon. He built on a promising third at Worcester when scoring by a wide margin at Fontwell, where he raced with plenty of zest, and then ran to a similar level when finishing runner-up at Taunton. He’s likely to launch another bold bid from the front.
Stick With Bill created a good impression in bumpers, winning on debut at Ffos Las before producing an even better effort in defeat when finishing runner-up in a strong event. He made the well regarded and unbeaten favourite work hard, and he appeals as a good prospect for hurdling. Thunderstruck has the best form of those who have run over hurdles and he could be the biggest danger.
Tom Lacey has a good record with his runners in bumpers and Lamanver Storm makes plenty of appeal on paper ahead of his debut. He is a half-brother to four winners, including Lamanver Odyssey, who won a bumper and was fairly useful over hurdles. Point winner Switch Hitter is of obvious interest on his debut for Paul Nicholls.
13:00 – Minnie Escape
13:35 – McFabulous
14:05 – The Ogle Gogle Man
14:40 – Oathkeeper
15:10 – Way Out West
15:45 – Stick With Bill
16:15 – Lamanver Storm