Any confidence behind Hector De Sivola would be hugely significant given that his rivals have shown such modest Flat ability. As things stand preference is for PRINCE PERCY, who was at least competitive on the level and he should stay okay. Hiconic is best of the remainder.
Dan Gun did well for Fergal O’Brien towards the end of last year and will play a significant role here if he resumes in similar form for his new stable but bumper winner SHANTOU SUNSET showed enough in novice/maiden hurdles last season to suggest she can collect a handicap at this lowly level. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see whether Richard Newland can revive the fortunes of Hidden Glen.
Lemon Shoulder is one of a handful of handicap debutants with significant potential for improvement in a race in which the betting market is likely to supply some valuable clues but PROPHETS PRAYER was placed off slightly higher marks in two stronger races than this last spring and might be the answer.
Ashutor sets a fairly useful hurdling standard but has managed to win only one of his ten starts in this sphere, and was brushed aside fairly easily by the winner when favourite at Southwell on Wednesday.
Jimmy The Digger looked very promising when winning a bumper in 2018, while Referee displayed significant promise on the Flat in the same year but both return from long absences here. Perhaps this will go to SHAREEF STAR, who was useful on the Flat and may not have been suited by the soft ground when running well for a long way on his hurdling debut in March.
His Dream has conditions to suit and can play a leading role if in the right mood after his break, while there’s every chance ex-Irish 7yo Classic Escape will provide Richard Newland with another success story soon. However, RATOUTE YUTTY (nap) reverts to hurdling on a very dangerous mark and could prove difficult to beat.
Global Tour enjoyed a very productive spell for his new stable last year and the evidence from his last two runs suggests he’s still on a workable mark. He ought to go well but POINTED AND SHARP seemed to benefit significantly from the fitting of a tongue-tie when winning three times over fences in September/October and is taken to exploit his lower hurdle mark here.
Darling Maltaix is on a workable mark if he can get his act together over fences but he sometimes harms his chance by refusing to settle, and the switch to much more positive tactics didn’t pay dividends on his last two starts. Furthermore, there is a doubt about the suitability of this left-handed track. Preference is for MAJESTIC TOUCH, who made a rather shaky start to his chasing career but was set to win or go close in the Wincanton race won by Templepark before his last-fence fall in October.
Duc Kauto made a pleasing start to his chasing career last season and is respected, while winning pointers Cheltenam De Vaige and Bubble O’Clock could both turn out to be well handicapped. However, FENLONS COURT returned to form with a good second over hurdles in January and now reverts to chasing from a tempting mark. He gets the nod.
The most obvious answer is BOB PEBBLE, who has joined Paul Nicholls since his pleasing debut in Ireland last year. That said, Follow That has plenty of scope to build on her Ludlow run and newcomer Beholden represents a respected Flat trainer who tends to do well with his occasional bumper runners.
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