Fergal O’Brien’s COURTANDBOULD suffered a slight setback when beaten at short odds at Stratford last month, but the soft ground may not have been ideal and he certainly didn’t run badly.
He impressed when winning there on his first two starts over hurdles and can add to his tally here.
Useful Flat-racer Quloob won here recently and has the potential for significant further improvement over hurdles, but a bigger threat to the selection may emerge from Kannapolis – who ran with credit in a useful Doncaster novice hurdle last season.
Pagero has won his last three and could still be progressing but he had to fight hard for a last-gasp verdict over an exposed 11-year-old at Newton Abbot last month and is another 4lb higher here.
Preference is for CAPONE, who came from a long way off the pace to take third in a good 2m race at Market Rasen three weeks ago and, having been placed over that trip on the Flat in June, looks very interesting over today’s extra distance. Esprit De Baileys may be the main danger.
Most of these have plenty to prove and the one that stands out is Jonjo O’Neill’s JOLY MAKER (NAP), who justified favouritism in good style off a reduced mark at Bangor 12 days ago and can strike again off 5lb higher here to make it 3-10 over fences.
The main danger could be four-time chase winner Butlergrove King, who has run well when fresh in the past and returns to action off his last winning mark.
Richard Newland’s new recruit ORCHESTRAL RAIN finished third at Roscommon last month and that looks the best hurdling form on offer here, given the winner was useful on the Flat and has already won over hurdles again under a penalty.
French Flat winner Highlander Madrik is bred for jumping and is feared most, ahead of Uttoxeter winner Topkapi Star.
Our Rockstar might have needed her reappearance run in July and has become very well handicapped, but it’s hard to be swayed from FRAU GEORGIA, who came good with a clear-cut win at Perth last week and still looks well handicapped under a penalty.
Memphis Bell – who may be the main danger – posted a sound effort when third over 2m last month and is unexposed over this sort of trip, while a good each-way case can also be made for the other Welsh-trained runner Realta Dawn.
Easyrun De Vassy came good under rules with a good performance over course and distance last month and is respected, but SCHNABEL has done well for his new stable this summer and could still be well treated after his Uttoxeter success three weeks ago. He gets the vote.
Irish point winner Aughnacurra King has shaped with promise in two novice hurdles this summer and is arguably the most interesting of the chasing debutants.
Tom Lacey’s GRIZZMAN justified odds-on favouritism when winning a Larkhill maiden point on his debut in March and is selected to enhance his trainer’s very good bumper strike-rate.
Lord Accord made a promising debut in an Irish point last year and also appeals. He may be next best.
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