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I had a second look at Cepage off top weight having been far from disgraced in the Denman Chase at Newbury last time out, and with a cracking record at the course. If there was a similar handicap at the Festival over two-and-three-quarter miles he would have been given the nod, but he just struggles at this distance and is 3lbs higher than when finishing a non-staying seventh in this last year – albeit in a much stronger renewal.
Admiral’s Secret was also considered on his first run over 3m, something he has been crying out for. His run behind Two For Gold over 2-and-a-half miles last time out backs this up, as he just stayed on through the last half mile to finish a never-nearer third. He was also not helped by a very early mistake which put him on the back foot and he was tapped for toe from the last down the far stretch of fences. He did well to finish so close, and I will be having a saver on him behind my selection.
This looks a moderate renewal to say the least, and there aren’t many sloggers in the field that will appreciate the recent easing in the ground. If Discordantly could jump he would be in the mix, but in the end, I fell down on the side of the veteran VINTAGE CLOUDS (each-way).
He was a place behind Cepage 12 months ago. The differential this time around is that the 11-year-old is fully 8lbs lower and following a fallow start to the season, Sue Smith’s runners are finally hitting form. I’m just hoping that Ryan Mania doesn’t go bombing off in front and saves a little bit for the final uphill climb.
Many of these are still hiding their true talent under a bushel and it could be that the likes of the ante-post race gamble, Houx Gris, along with Riviere D’etel and Homme Public are very well treated amongst others.
The last-named came under serious consideration as he is very well regarded by Ollie Greenall and couldn’t have been more impressive last time out at Market Rasen. If you fancy Houx Gris, you also have to play this son of Cokoriko because he was a neck second to the Nicholls’ horse in France last year.
But, the tried-and-trusted form of the top weight NASSALAM could be the way to go at an each-way price. He gave Adagio plenty to think about in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow and wasn’t suited by a moderate pace in deep ground at Haydock Park last time out. On this better surface and crucially in a much faster run race, he has every chance of giving the weight away to the majority of these fellow four-year-olds.
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Winner of the last two renewals and four of the last 11, Nicky Henderson’s runners are always worth a second look in this cavalry charge and the Seven Barrows’ maestro has four in the final field of 26.
It is the lowest rated and weighted that catches the eye especially with the heavy rain which greeted the Gloucestershire on Sunday. That should ensure that the going description has soft in it somewhere and CRAIGNECHE, on the limited evidence we have, loves to get his toe in.
Lack of experience may well be a negative with only four career runs under his belt, but it was hard not to be taken with his Ascot jaunt in a Grade Three handicap hurdle when he simply toyed with the 137-rated Arrivederci to the tune of 7 lengths.
That quite rightly earned the son of Flemensfirth a 12lbs penalty for this event, but he could well be a 150+ horse in the making. His probable double-figure odds make him look a solid each-way play and he gets the nod over the likes of big priced bottom-weight Witness Protection, along with stablemate Janika and Botox Has.
The outstandingly well-handicapped horse in this year’s 2m cavalry charge is last year’s Grand Annual runner-up Eclair De Beaufeu, a full stone plus lower over hurdles. He ran a hugely eye-catching race when sixth of 22 behind Drop The Anchor at Leopardstown, never-nearer than at the finish.
But, the pertinent point about that run was that it came on heavy ground and this Irish raider is a much better operator on spring ground.
However, his price has somewhat collapsed in the last few days, but he may still be worth a saver at a price behind the Twiston-Davies trained novice GOWEL ROAD. Originally being aimed at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, this five-year-old has made steady progress on his four career starts over hurdles culminating in a career best on the fastest ground he has encountered at Newbury last time out, when comfortably seeing off the well-regarded Good Ball by 5-and-a-half lengths.
I thought in the circumstances that a 6lbs penalty was very fair and if Sam Twiston-Davies can get this inexperienced hurdler into a nice rhythm early on, he looks sure to go well off a lovely racing weight of 10-07. That means, with plenty of improvement still to come, he is taken as an each-way play.
Of the remainder, Edwardstone has to be thereabouts if the weather forecast is spot on, while Ciel De Neige is another player in a typically wide-open renewal.
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