MIDNIGHT RIVER showed a good attitude to make a winning hurdling debut at Uttoxeter earlier this month, sticking to his task well to land the spoils by a length and a half. The first pair pulled well clear of the rest, and the runner-up gave the form a boost when going one place better on his next start at Exeter. Midnight River leaves the impression he’ll be suited by this longer trip, too, so he is fancied to improve past Ask For Glory to maintain his unbeaten record over obstacles.
MOSSY FEN won three of his five starts over hurdles last season, including a Grade 2 at Warwick, and he wasn’t disgraced when last seen finishing fifth behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival. He has the physique to suggest he can take his form to another level now chasing, while the return to three miles is also expected to suit. Galvin is the pick of those with previous experience over fences, but Mossy Fen makes more appeal in receipt of 8lb on his chasing debut.
CAPTAIN TOM CAT has quickly developed into a fairly useful hurdler, winning his second start at Uttoxeter and then defying a penalty over the same course and distance. He still looked a bit rough around the edges on the last occasion, being forced to dig deep after making several novicey mistakes.
There should be more to come from him as he gains in experience, so he is fancied to prove himself better than an opening mark of 121 for the Dr Richard Newland yard that won this race with Duke Street (also ridden by Cillin Leonard) 12 months ago.
SCARDURA is built for chasing and confirmed the promise of his debut in this sphere when getting off the mark at Newton Abbot last time. Always prominent in a small field, he led on the bridle entering the straight and then showed a good turn of foot to put the race to bed (won by two and a half lengths). This will be much tougher, but his lightly-raced profile suggests he can take the step up in grade in his stride and defy a 7lb higher mark.
PIPESMOKER showed plenty of ability in two starts over hurdles last season, including when filling the runner-up spot behind the exciting Sporting John at Ascot on his final appearance. That form comfortably sets the standard here on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, so he looks sure to take plenty of beating when you factor in his scope for more improvement.
FUSIL RAFFLES was a smart hurdler on his day, as he showed when winning a Grade 1 at Punchestown as a four-year-old. Admittedly, he was below that level for most of last season, but there was plenty of encouragement to be taken from his chasing debut at Uttoxeter recently.
He jumped fine and staying on well to beat a couple of talented rivals by four lengths. He should go on improving over fences and can maintain his unbeaten record here before stepping back up in grade.
ONE TRUE KING was strong in the betting and duly showed much improved form to get off the mark at Uttoxeter last time. He jumped accurately in front and quickly asserted when increasing the pace on the approach to two out, ultimately winning by three-and-a-quarter-lengths in ready fashion. That was a big step in the right direction, and he may have been underestimated by an opening mark of 125 if improving further for the switch to handicaps.
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