Butler’s Brief shaped much better than the result implied when only seventh over this course and distance last month and he is of significant interest on his handicap debut from a fair-looking mark.
Butler’s Brief was eventually well beaten last time but he showed plenty to work with, getting into the heat of the contest a fair way out before weakening on the turn for home. He is open to plenty of improvement and the excellent 3lb conditional Bryan Carver has been booked.
Seymour Sox – who like Butler’s Brief is trained by Alastair Ralph and will be ridden by Bryan Carver – showed much improved form to finish second on his handicap debut at Uttoxeter last time, pulling 24 lengths clear of the third.
That was an encouraging effort and having proved that he handles testing conditions, he ought to go close. First Assembly – who also finished runner-up last time – is considered the leading danger.
Giga White showed fairly useful form on the Flat when trained by Ger Lyons and looks an interesting recruit to hurdling. He has to prove his stamina and his effectiveness on testing ground, but his latent ability makes him stand out.
He gets the nod over Artistic Language, who sets the standard based on his second at Wetherby in November.
Holly James won a bumper at the first attempt, justifying good support, and he has also shown plenty of ability since being sent hurdling. He kept on strongly to win on heavy ground over two miles at Ffos Las, responding to pressure in the style of a horse with plenty of stamina, and he was running well over three miles at Chepstow last time when he fell at the second-last.
He looks to have been let in lightly on his handicap debut and can make amends for his late exit last time. Fontley House showed improved form to get off the mark at Kempton in November and is considered the main threat.
Locker Room Talk has progressed well since being sent chasing and produced a career-best effort to open his account over fences at Taunton last month. He jumped well in the main and had matters firmly under control from some way out, his advantage only being reduced in the closing stages.
He remains open to further improvement as a chaser and the slight drop in trip will not be a problem, keeping in mind his free-going, enthusiastic running style.
Misty Mai was sent off a strong favourite over course and distance last time but was only able to finish third. However, she paid the price for trying to keep tabs with the dominant winner, and she shaped better than the bare result.
Misty Mai’s latest win – which came over course and distance in March 2018 – was achieved off an 18lb higher mark, so she is worth another chance to capitalise on her lenient rating.
15:55 – ELEANOR BOB
Eleanor Bob got off the mark at Leicester on her penultimate start and progressed again to defy a penalty at Exeter last time, looking fully at home in the mud and winning with plenty in hand.
She should be able to complete the hat-trick for Venetia Williams.
*Prices correct at time of posting