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Speed is the chief strength of VIRGINIA PLANE (NAP), and if she breaks quickly from her stall one off the rail, she could be hard to catch. She gets the vote ahead of the recent winners Rebel At Dawn (second choice) and Havagomecca.
Dropping back to 6 furlongs seems likely to suit GABRIAL THE DEVIL and he can add to his two previous course and distance successes. The in-form and well-drawn Look Out Louis has to enter calculations, while Glory Fighter will be dangerous from stall one as long as he gets away on terms. Brian The Snail and Fizzy Feet complete the shortlist.
Hat-trick-seeker Elhafei commands major respect under Franny Norton, but ARABIST looks the one to be on after shaping encouragingly over course and distance on his reapperarance. The winner that day Soapy Stevens has since followed up. Red Derek gained a deserved first success at Haydock last time and could pose the main threat off just 2lbs higher.
Several of these are closely matched having crossed swords in similar events in recent weeks, but MAN OF RIDDLES has a different background and could prove well treated as he moves into handicaps. The three Mark Johnston-trained runners are all of interest, with the course and distance winner Love Is Golden particularly solid and perhaps the main danger.
The form pick is ROBJON, runner-up in similar company at Beverley last time, and he gets the verdict just ahead of Roman Dragon, who finished tired after helping force a strong gallop over course and distance on his latest start and may last longer this time. A market move for one of the newcomers would be significant.
Top of the list is MAORI KNIGHT, who won in good style at Chelmsford on his reappearance and may well follow up. Mutaabeq, who ran well over course and distance last season for Joe Fanning, may prove the most serious rival. Hot Team, Gabrial The One and Arctic Vega are among others who should enter calculations.
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