Global Fame won readily on his second start over hurdles at Southwell on his final start last season, but that was just fair form and it hasn’t really worked out yet, so preference is for hurdling debutant TUPELO MISSISSIPPI, who showed useful form in bumpers last season. He displayed a fine attitude to win under a penalty at Newcastle when last seen and looks a good jumping prospect.
BARON DE MIDLETON showed fairly useful form to win a couple of novice hurdles last season, and this point winner shaped with plenty of encouragement on his chasing debut over two miles at this track last month. That looked a strong race of its type, and he showed plenty to work on, edging into the lead at three out before being headed. The yard won that race with a useful type in 2019 and there should be plenty of improvement to come from Baron de Midleton now.
Kim Bailey has his team in fantastic form and IMPERIAL ICON is bred to be better than this opening mark. He showed ability in a couple of runs last season, and is best not judged too harshly on his reappearance at Uttoxeter last month. He wasn’t best placed in the rear, and was in a bad position when the pace began to lift and having plenty to do in the straight. Imperial Icon wasn’t knocked about and much better is expected over this longer trip now sent handicapping.
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This looks a cracking contest and you can make a case for several. However, the one who tops the list is Cheltenham Festival winner IMPERIAL AURA, who is fancied to continue the rapid progress he made last season. The form of his win in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase could hardly be working out any better, with the runner-up Galvin winning all four of his starts since, and there should be even more to come from Imperial Aura this term. Brewin’upastorm looks an obvious threat back up in trip, while it would be folly to rule out Windsor Avenue, too, who has always been held in high regard.
JACAMAR had been in better heat than his recent form figures suggested and duly proved that right when winning a competitive handicap at Aintree last Sunday. That was a career-best performance and he looks well treated off effectively 4 lb higher now. He’ll surely go well if coping with two outings in quick succession.
A case can be made for lots but the most persuasive one is for VERY FIRST TIME, who caught the eye at Perth on his return when a tenderly-handled third and can take full advantage of a 2 lb drop in the weights. Sam’s Adventure rates a major threat on the form of his Uttoxeter win last spring but his seven-month absence tempers enthusiasm.
ONWARD ROUTE ran to a pretty useful level when pulling clear with Tupelo Mississippi – who runs earlier on the card – at Newcastle when last seen in March. That form is by far the best on offer in this field and he is taken to strike on his return for new trainer Rebecca Menzies. Last year’s debut winner Karl Philippe is open to improvement and may provide the chief threat.
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