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It’s been a long time since his last win, but NICEANDEASY returned from a 23-month absence with a very encouraging run at Carlisle last month and remains well handicapped on older form. He gets the vote ahead of Sutton Manor, who is on a tempting hurdle mark even before Patrick Wadge’s very handy 10lbs claim is considered. O’Hanrahan Bridge can also feature.
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Another Brown Bear is a major player for Nicky Henderson, but preference is for the Donald McCain-trained DEDANSER, whose rules debut third at Carlisle in October was franked when the runner-up Famous Bridge went one better at Ayr on Monday. Ned Tanner was fourth in the Carlisle race and also has staying potential, along with Readysteadybeau.
Burrows Edge and Mint Condition can have a say if transferring their hurdle ability to this discipline, but proven chasers COCONUT SPLASH and Kiltealy Briggs are safer options. They are closely matched judged on their recent handicap form, but the very lightly raced Coconut Splash may have greater scope for further improvement.
There is no stopping Donald McCain this season and the exciting four-year-old A DIFFERENT KIND is taken to maintain his unbeaten rules record. Talented Flat stayer Green Book is feared most on his second hurdle start, although the mare Mind Sunday is also be a danger.
A few of these veterans have been given a chance by the handicapper, particularly Blaklion who has shown hints of spark the last twice, but this could be between the Nick Alexander-trained pair. LAKE VIEW LAD (NAP) is the pick off a mark 5lbs lower than when a creditable seventh in April’s Scottish National, and he’s won on two of his last three reappearances. Stablemate Up Helly Aa King showed career-best form earlier this year and is capable of building on his fair reappearance fourth at Kelso.
With several unexposed ones in the line-up the betting market should be interesting, but the answer might be GOOBINATOR – who was in excellent form on the Flat this autumn and is well handicapped over hurdles. Grizzly James shaped very much as though in need of the run on his British debut in October and is feared most, but Osprey Call and Gran Luna also make significant appeal.
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