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OUTLAW PETER looked a useful prospect when getting off the mark in a bumper at Worcester last month, keeping on well to win by two and a half lengths in comfortable fashion. He is very much the type to go on improving, particularly now stepping up in trip for his debut over hurdles. It will be disappointing if he can’t make a winning start before going on to bigger and better things.
HUFLOWER won a pair of bumpers in France (when trained by Adrien Fouassier) before joining the Paul Nicholls yard and undergoing wind surgery. It’s hard to know how his form stacks up in the context of this race, but he must be considered a fascinating contender on his hurdling debut. Nicholls has won this race four times since 2011 and it will be interesting to see whether there is much support for Huflower in the betting.
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HITMAN developed into a smart novice chaser last season, winning twice and running another good race when last seen finishing third in a Grade 1 at Aintree in April. He has undergone wind surgery since then and the drop back in trip also looks a good move for his return to action. There should be more to come from him over fences and a BHA mark of 151 is potentially very lenient in another race which Nicholls has farmed in recent years (won three of the last six runnings).
THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE shaped encouragingly when filling the runner-up spot on his chasing debut at Chepstow last month, leaving the impression the run would bring him on. Even that form sets the standard in this line-up, while the small ‘p’ attached to his Timeform rating denotes that he is likely to progress further. Therefore, he rates a confident selection to open his account over fences at the second attempt.
POPPA POUTINE won two of his five starts over hurdles last season, showing fairly useful form in the process. He now makes the switch to chasing and could be worth siding with from a BHA mark of 126. He is only 4 lb higher in the weights than when recording his last victory over hurdles and his previous experience in Irish points (runner-up on his sole start) suggests he could be the type to take his form up another notch in this sphere.
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MARTHA BRAE failed to make an impact in three starts over fences during the spring, but it could be worth putting a line through those runs and giving her the benefit of the doubt now back over hurdles for a new yard. She has dropped to a good mark judged on the balance of her form and there are few better trainers than Dan Skelton to revive a horse after a spell in the doldrums.
MIDNIGHT CALLISTO could be the way to go in a wide-open finale. She proved expensive to follow in four starts over hurdles last season, but the drop back in trip here following wind surgery could be the catalyst for an improved display. She showed plenty of ability in bumpers earlier in her career and it’s far too soon to be writing her off from what looks a lenient mark.
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