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Fergal O’Brien is 5-9 here in the last five seasons and the stable’s TRAILBOSS can defy a 5lbs penalty for his last-time-out win at Newton Abbot. Charcor is a big player on his best form, but has been well beaten the last twice and the main threat could come from bumper winner Lock Down Luke – who was bang there when falling three out on his recent hurdle debut. Hurdling newcomers Dixieland Swing and Well Educated are closely matched on their bumper form, with Willy Nilly another to consider.
The progressive eight-year-old DO NOT DISTURB won in good style over the extended 2m 7f here last time and is open to further improvement at staying trips. He is the selection ahead of Louis’ Vac Pouch, who ran well, but didn’t quite see out 3m 5f at Fakenham last time. Gwencily Berbas and last-time-out Worcester winner Haul Away could also be in the mix.
When Epatante first revealed herself as a top-class prospect at Newbury in November 2019, it was stablemate FRENCH CRUSADER who chased her home and he was four lengths clear of the rest in a much better race than this.
Off just a 2lbs higher mark today, French Crusader has a cracking chance assuming all is now well with him after his long absence, and Nicky Henderson’s roughly 50% strike-rate in recent weeks gives plenty of encouragement. Valentino Dancer staged a partial revival on his debut for Fergal O’Brien and looks the main threat if he can build on that.
The unexposed mare LULU BALOO (NAP) won comfortably when upped in trip to 2m 7f on last month’s handicap debut at Newcastle and a 9lbs rise may not be enough to prevent her following up. Lissen To The Lady has won twice this spring, including here, and is second choice ahead of Doune Castle and Dequall.
He may have fallen at Cheltenham last time, but OSKI still appeals as the most solid option, as he was running a big race at the time and won over fences at Uttoxeter the time before. Chasing newcomer Grand Mogul is feared most for Nicky Henderson, ahead of First Lord De Cuet – who is open to improvement on this second run over fences.
Having been in good form in hunter chases this spring, POINT THE WAY is taken to follow up his recent win at Perth. Fortunes Hiding, Magna Sam and Rattle The Cage have claims on their best form, but they all arrive with something to prove. Nine Altars was runner-up at 50/1 in this race two years ago and is a viable each-way option, along with Killer Crow.
Although Starlyte’s eventual response to pressure at Huntingdon first time out gives her a major chance on form with her allowances, preference is still for BETTY BALOO to complete her hat-trick giving weight all round. First Glance is an Irish point winner and unraced Wadacre Monika is another to check out.
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