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Although the ground will hardly be testing in National Hunt terms, the light showers forecast on the day of racing should offer up perfect jumping conditions and with five front runners/pressers in the field there will be no place to hide in this year’s renewal of the Scottish Borders National Handicap Chase over an extended four miles.
You could readily argue that the six times course winning veteran, Big River, needs a bit more give in the ground to give a peak performance, but it is also worth noting that three of those wins at this venue have come on a good or a good to soft surface.
He also showed that the fire still burns brightly as he is about to turn 12 with a cracking seasonal debut when a close up second of sixth behind Empire De Maulde at the back end of October. The assessor has been kind to him and allowed the old boy to stay on a mark of 135 and as long as he doesn’t get left behind here as the race begins in earnest, I suspect he will be hard to keep out of the frame in a wide open renewal.
Following a second wind operation, Geronimo could also go well at bigger odds, but the nod goes to another veteran who if he retains the majority of his talent could play a major role here at around double figure odds.
It is worth remembering that as recently as April, the Nicky Richards’ trained charge was a fine sixth in the Scottish Grand National off a mark of 129 under today’s rider Danny McMenamin and following a fine pipe opener at Carlisle he is set to run off a mark of 123.
As long as we don’t not get too many prolonged showers and he has decent ground to play on, then the 12-year-old is a big player at a double-figure price. Richards would hardly let him take his chance unless he felt that his charge could still do himself justice at this level.
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There is little doubt that Choice of Words is the right favourite for this mares novice hurdle with the step up to two and a half miles very much in her favour being by Yeats out of a Generous mare, but this looks quite a deep race and as such an each-way play looks the call here.
The Getaway Star has form on a par with the market leader, but may be not the potential to go to a higher level, while Party Central is much better than her below par run in a grade three at Down Royal last time out.
Three miles was almost certainly a shade too far for the selection though last time out at Limerick in a listed contest and the drop back to the distance of her novice hurdle win looks a really good call from her astute handler.
A fluent hurdler and thorough stayer at this trip, I think her chance has been hugely underplayed in the market place and the daughter of Alhebayeb should outrun her double figure odds in a fascinating renewal of this Listed affair.
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I love these big field handicap hurdles at one one of the fairest tracks in Ireland this looks like being a cracking test at the two and a half mile trip with plenty of pace on.
Top weight Emir De Rots was my first port of call and the key to his chance is a really good test at the trip. All of his best performances have come over two and a half miles when the pace has been on which seems to help him jump more fluently.
You could also argue that this is a slightly easier task than the one he was presented with last time out and the seven-year-old is set to run off a 3lbs lower mark with the promising seven pounds conditional Charlie O’Dwyer on board. As long as the boy can get him settled in rear and into a rhythm then he looks set to defy his mark in a race with more quantity than quality.
Of his 18 rivals, the lightly raced Loup De Tallane is interesting having run well at Bellewstown last time out, while Temptationinmilan possibly didn’t get home over a galloping three miles last time out and this could be more suitable for this 10 runner maiden.
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Before I move onto this staying handicap hurdle, a quick word on the feature Peterborough Chase (1.52) which seems to have a clear cut make-up to it with a load of pace on courtesy of Old Roan Chase winner Allmankind and the free going course and distance winner Master Tommytucker.
That should unsure a true pace on here and would suit First Flow, stepping up in trip for the first time in a while and returning to going right handed after blowing out in the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Fungmbule Sivola is potentially interesting moving up to two and a half miles and with few miles on the clock and you would think that Venetia would have him ready to run for his life, but I suspect Eldorado Allen needs another significant step forward to follow up his win in the Haldon Gold Cup.
And so onto the race in question. Macfin has always looked as though a deep test of stamina would suit as all he does is stay and stay some more. The problem is around here his hurdling looks sure to be tested to the max and that is his weakness at this stage of his career.
He remains a player though and could turn out to be the biggest danger with a better round of jumping behind the Tizzard trained baby.
The son of Stowaway has only had the three runs under rules, but was always going to be suited by a real test of stamina and showed enough over two and a half miles last time out, to see him going close off a handicap mark of 111 in what is after all a pretty moderate affair for this level.
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