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Day two of the Showcase meeting and ITV cover five races live from the home of National Hunt racing. There’s a strong Irish presence and we could get an indication of whether we will see the same domination at the Cheltenham Festival next season as we saw last March.
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This is normally one of the most competitive handicaps of these two days, especially when you look at the roll of honour from the last few years. It has been won by some smart horses on the up, but quite a lot of the runners are exposed compared to previous years.
SAMARRIVE is very much in the ‘could be anything’ category. He bolted up at Kempton in a novice hurdle, but a few of those in behind have not exactly franked the form since. The time was a lot slower than the handicap on the card, so I am a little concerned. The lack of an apparent ‘blot’ on the handicap makes me stick with him though. Samba Dancer is the likeliest to give the selection a scare after his comfy success at Stratford.
Jordan Gainford won on The Shunter at the Festival in March for Emmet Mullins and now teams up with his boss Gordon Elliott, who will be very keen to get winners at this meeting. DEFINITE PLAN is wearing cheekpieces for the first time and this is only his fourth run over fences. With a featherweight on his back over this trip, he has to be of real interest.
The Irish raiders plundered all the handicaps at the Festival and he could provide more of the same. Go Another One is hoping to continue the great run of trainer John McConnell with his UK runners. Cloth Cap needed his first run last year before he went on to win the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury and started among the market leaders for the Aintree Grand National. He now has to defy a career-high rating, but does have the ground conditions in his favour.
A small, but select field of four runners declared and three are of interest for different reasons. TRITONIC was found to be sick after a disappointing run in the Triumph Hurdle and is better judged on his win in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton. Trainer Alan King has had a good run of form of late and I take his charge to just edge it.
Stepney Causeway has had a wind operation which should help and went on a real roll having finished behind Tritonic at Ascot in his first run over obstacles, when then winning his next four races. He is a fast, accurate, jumper and that may cause the others some problems.
I Like To Move It won two bumpers before being beaten 19 lengths in the Festival bumper. He made a winning debut over obstacles at Worcester, but his jumping was far from fluent. He may get found out by the more experienced arrivals in this contest.
Sky Pirate just couldn’t get his head in front early last season, he even got beat on his first run at Wetherby, off a mark 27lbs lower than his now rating. There is a shortage of last season’s novices in this contest, so you can’t rule him out even off that rating. Before Midnight has impressive form figures and won a bumper at Kempton on the all-weather, as well a handicap chase at the end of last season.
It’ll be interesting to see if he can continue the upward surge over this shorter trip. However, trainer Sophie Leech is a dab hand at re-energising horses and, while ASHUTOR has to find a bit of form from his good run behind Sky Pirate to finish in the money, he is capable of that if fit first time up.
Denis Hogan is a really good young trainer, who has a big string of horses. When you consider how competitive racing is in Ireland with big yards like Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead, Denis has done brilliantly.
MACGILONEY will love conditions and won over this trip at Galway earlier this year. He looks a bit of value in a competitive contest. Tulleybeg has won his last two starts and on what we have seen, doesn’t appear to be hiding anything from the handicapper. He is a solid option, but I’d sooner Macgiloney each-way in this Pertemps Hurdle qualifier.
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