Sandy Thomson is among the winners and the unexposed bumper victor DOYEN BREED is taken to make a successful handicap/stable debut. Say The Word is feared most for Tom George now up in trip for his second start of the season, while Katahdin could go well if settling better and the four-year-old handicap newcomer The Furrows End is one to watch in the betting with Brian Hughes taking over.
He won in the style of a well-handicapped horse at Carlisle last week and the unexposed APPLE ROCK can follow up under a 7lb penalty today. Fellow last-time-out winner Apache Creek is respected, but Blaster Yeats is feared most in the expectation he will improve for his recent reappearance.
Shan Blue was very impressive here on his recent chase/seasonal debut and is certainly respected under a 6lb penalty, but this could be a good opportunity for HOLD THE NOTE to get off the mark over fences. He was runner-up in a Grade 2 novice chase at Warwick in January and also ran a cracker when third at the Cheltenham Festival. I K Brunel could also be involved.
Last month’s Flat winner MARLBOROUGH SOUNDS (NAP) could have untapped potential now back over hurdles, having won in good style on his handicap debut in this code in January, and he is the pick. Last year’s winner Fransham is feared most now back down in trip, with the four-year-old Pop The Cork next on the list.
He was an easy winner over course and distance in January and that performance suggests today’s 6lb higher mark should not be beyond CHARMANT, who can be excused his subsequent Cheltenham Festival run in an ultra-competitive handicap.
Born Survivor won this two years ago before finishing fourth last season, and he could be the main danger. Last year’s runner-up Happy Diva and Joke Dancer could also be in the mix, while second-season chaser Two For Gold has potential off his current mark but may need further.
Top Irish trainer Gordon Elliott runs two unbeaten hurdlers and Richard Johnson’s mount LONGCLAW may be his chief hope. He’s 3-3 in this code and the form of his latest win has been franked by the runner-up.
Stablemate Duffle Coat is still very much respected, however, having won easily on both starts. The Dan Skelton-trained Cabot Cliffs could be best of the British, ahead of the prolific Soldier On Parade.
Equus Millar has potential, but is hard to be confident about after 485 days off. It might be worth siding with former C&D scorer CRACKING FIND, who was in the process of making a good return to action when unseating at the last in a competitive renewal of the Bobby Renton here recently and has been dropped another 3lb since.
Smiths Cross has one piece of chase form which makes him look well treated. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go well in first-time blinkers with the Michael Scudamore team among the winners.
Several runners are open to progress in this sphere, notably Heart Of A Lion who looks a fascinating contender on his belated return to action. However, THIRD TIME LUCKI sets a useful standard and should follow up his Uttoxeter win. The selection has Graded potential over hurdles this term and ideally needs to defy a penalty in order to keep those aspirations intact.
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