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This should be between the two previous hurdle winners. Preference is for the Gordon Elliott-trained GET RICH DIE PLYIN, who was an easy winner at Punchestown on his hurdle debut and a solid third in a warm Cork novice next time. Here Comes Johny could prove to be a tough opponent however, having impressed at Fakenham last time. Deer Hunter could be best of the rest.
Last year’s winner LATE DATE has dropped back to the same mark and has every chance of defending his crown after a respectable reappearance in September. Nortonthorpe Legend is probably the main threat, ahead of Boric and Classic Escape.
The step up in trip looks a likely positive for the Sue Smith-trained SMALL PRESENT on his handicap debut and this unexposed five-year-old gets the nod. The biggest threat could come from his stablemate Golden Robin, who won at Hexham last time out, with the consistent Trapper Peak also respected.
Top of the list is CASH AGAIN (NAP), who returned to form on his second run after a long absence when going close at Hexham last month. He’s 4lb higher here, but he split two subsequent winners last time and this step back up in trip looks a positive for this course and distance winner.
Grand Coureur has held his form well since his 2m 4f Southwell in July and he’s feared most, though Frankie Ballou had a solid record last season and is respected on his return to action.
The one that stands out is GLORIOUS ZOFF, who sets a clear standard on his impressive hurdling debut win at Sligo 13 days ago and can defy a penalty to make it 2-2 for Gordon Elliott. Both Gold Desert and Genever Dragon kicked off their hurdling careers with C&D wins, but the former didn’t achieve a great deal with his success, and the main danger is Genever Dragon, who knuckled down well when beating an odds-on rival in September.
Neil Mulholland has an excellent record at Sedgefield and the unexposed EXELERATOR EXPRESS is taken to make a winning chase debut. Point runner-up Royal Crown could leave his hurdle form well behind now switched to fences and he is feared most, while fellow chasing newcomers Our Bubba and Flamboyant Joyaux also showed promise in points. Just Call Me Al ran well over fences at Carlisle recently and could build on that run today.
Only beaten a short-head for today’s jockey in this race last year off a 12lb higher mark, LOSTNFOUND faces her ideal conditions again back from wind surgery and looks the way to go. Millie The Minx, who finds herself 8lb lower than when last running over hurdles, despite two Flat wins and a couple of solid chase efforts here in the interim, is a danger.
Hard to warm to any of these. Marginal preference is for TOMORROW’S ANGEL, who suggested her turn was coming when third at Perth in September and wasn’t disgraced in a hotter heat last time out. Charlottes Way is an interesting handicap debutante, while Louloumills doesn’t win very often but could pick up minor honours.
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