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A big field, but this seemingly doesn’t have the depth of a usual Cheltenham handicap and SAMBA DANCER, who arrives in top form, is expected to bring up the hat-trick for Fergal O’Brien. He has showed improved form since joining this yard, confirming himself a progressive hurdler when winning with a bit in hand at Stratford earlier this month.
Samba Dancer is now 6lbs higher, but appeals as still being ahead of his mark. If there’s a runner with the scope to be much better than their mark it’s Samarrive.
NEW TO PADDY POWER?
Kerry Lee has her team in good order and STORM CONTROL could be the one to beat on his return to action. He has won when fresh in the past and enjoyed an excellent campaign last season when winning twice at Cheltenham, including a handicap over course and distance.
A bold-jumping front runner, he seems sure to make a bold bid on his first start for six months. Cloth Cap’s bid for Grand National glory ended abruptly when he was pulled up when last seen, but he shouldn’t be overlooked now back after a wind operation.
Only four runners, but there is plenty of potential on show and STEPNEY CAUSEWAY may be able to dominate this. A useful Flat performer, he quickly reached a similar level over hurdles last season, readily landing the odds when completing a four-timer at Ayr on his final start in April.
He remains open to further progress on his return and he tops the shortlist having had a wind operation in the off-season. Tritonic was below par in the Triumph Hurdle when last seen, but retains potential judged on his impressive Adonis success.
SKY PIRATE was liberated by the drop to two miles last season, winning three of his four starts since moving back in distance – notably the Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival on his final start. He now makes his return for a yard going along nicely.
Although a 7lbs higher mark makes life tougher for him, he is a notch above these rivals at his best and he can kick-start another fruitful campaign. Before Midnight deserved his Chepstow victory marking up in the spring and he’s feared most.
Another wide open handicap and, given his record here, it’s perhaps worth chancing TOBEFAIR. He may not be quite the force of old as he approaches his 12th birthday, but is dangerously well handicapped having won this off 14lbs higher in 2019.
Irish-raider Tullybeg arrives in top form and rates a big threat. Havana Hermano has been consistent of late, while Kansas City Chief is another well-treated veteran who goes well here.
OSCAR ELITE was a lightly-raced winner in points and won his first two starts under Rules over hurdles at Chepstow last season. He went on to finish runner-up in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival and third in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree and that is by far the best hurdles form on offer.
Oscar Elite has all the attributes to make up into an even better chaser and he can make a winning start here. Does He Know, who made an impressive debut over fences when successful at Chepstow earlier in the month, looks the main danger.
TOP DOG found only one too good in a competitive Fairyhouse bumper six months ago and now makes his first outing for a stable that’s been amongst the winners, so he takes narrow preference over Nicky Henderson’s newcomer Swapped. Shuil Donn, like the selection, has moved yards after an encouraging start in Ireland. He’s another one who could take a hand in what should prove to be a strong race.
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