Ground any slower than good to soft would be an unknown but MARADA went close on her hurdle debut at Warwick three weeks ago and looks the one to beat here. Bangor winner Timetoroe is feared most but Mick Mona ran well on her handicap debut at Newbury last December and can also feature if fully tuned up.
Aye Aye Charlie has slipped to a tempting mark for today’s seasonal debut and will be a potent threat if back on song but his only win from 16 starts over jumps came at odds of 1-12 in a novice hurdle, and he’s not one to rely upon heavily. EL PRESENTE may not be ideally suited by the forecast rain here but he once ran okay on soft ground and, having won chases on two of his last three starts, he looks the safest option.
Ziggy Rose ended last season with a very creditable second in a heavy-ground Listed race in Febraury but the strong emphasis on stamina that day played to her strengths and, unless the rain really buckets down, she may not be seen to quite the same effect here. Paul Nicholls’ unexposed 6yo YOUNG BUCK made a promising rules debut in March and is preferred.
The last-time-out winners Tikkinthebox and Carolines Charm are respected but both compete off new career-high marks and neither will be favoured by any rain. The suggestion is for FALCON SUN, who seemed to take pretty well to chasing when second on last month’s seasonal debut and is well handicapped if judged on the pick of his hurdling form.
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The most interesting runner is arguably LUCKY ONE, who showed significant ability in both France and Ireland, and has plenty of scope for improvement on today’s stable/handicap debut. He gets the nod ahead of last month’s Bangor winner Fugitives Drift but Red Nika ran very well in defeat on his handicap debut and also features prominently in calculations.
Prettylittlething and Still Believing don’t come here on a high, while it’s hard to know exactly what sort of form the three seasonal debutantes will be in (though the betting may help on that score). Those doubts cement the strong claims of THE BOOLA BEE (nap), who has a very solid chance on this season’s performances.
Paul Nicholls’ newcomer SETTLE DOWN is out of a very useful Flat-racer and might be the answer. Gerard Mentor also makes appeal on paper and is second choice but, given Fergal O’Brien’s excellent record in bumpers this season, City Derby must also be considered. Thomas Kershaw probably didn’t achieve much when second in a point bumper last spring but his Flat-oriented new trainer is always respected in bumpers.
Translink made a pleasing debut when second at Uttoxeter last month but he doesn’t set a daunting standard and perhaps the newcomer IMMORTAL FAME will enhance Tom Lacey’s very good bumper strike-rate. Rebel Rebello was a disappoining favourite on his debut but it would be foolish to write him off after that.
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