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This is a tough contest to get a handle on and a couple of the last time-out winners were all well-backed. Planned Paradise won an ordinary contest at Newcastle and the runner-up has let the form down since. An 11lb hike in the ratings won’t make his cause any easier. Pittsburg scored at Catterick after a wind operation but again, the form of that race has yet to be proven.
That brings me to Midnight Calisto. Anthony Honeyball’s runner was a good second at Taunton to Lime Drop, with the pair pulling a long way clear. A repeat of that run could be good enough to win now.
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Trainer Sam Thomas left the hood off Grey Diamond at Newbury and that was a mistake. Now with the headgear re-fitted he can get back to winning ways in this 2m Handicap Chase. The track will suit and Jack Tudor steals 3lb as he’s a talented jockey. Belle De Manech is the obvious danger but the drop back in trip is the worry after his win here over 2m 4f last time.
Philip Hobbs’ Crossing the Bar was trained by Sir Michael Stoute on the Flat, and he won at Carlisle of a mark of 77. If we add 40lbs as a rule of thumb to that Flat rating for a jumps mark, we get 117 to give us a rough idea of his capability over timber, which puts him ahead of his mark here of 108.
He ran a very nice race last time when getting going late on at Ffos Las when third on heavy ground to Bowtogreatness. Nicky Henderson’s Blairgowrie will find this easier than a couple of his last runs and merits respect, but he is proving expensive to follow.
You’re taking Mont Des Avaloirs’ fitness on Paul Nicholls’ record of getting them ready after a lay-off and his runner hasn’t seen the track for 455 days. He’s dropped in the ratings and will handle ground conditions and is a big danger on his best form. However, Stolen Silver beat Edwardstone over hurdles last season at Haydock and was a well-beaten fourth to him in the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown Kempton last month. That could prove strong form as he drops back to handicap company.
Nick Gifford’s runner has been placed three times at this venue in four starts including when second to Ibleo in this race last year, before finishing second to Moonlighter a month later. Paddy’s Poem is a little higher in the ratings this time, but at the price, I am willing to take a punt on him. Gunsight Ridge is the obvious danger after finishing a six-length second to L’Homme Presse and Exeter before the winner that day, franked the form by winning the Dipper Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. L’Homme Presse He is now rated 26lbs higher than when running at Exeter.
Some horses gets bogged down coming up the Sandown hill, but Constitution Hill put up a very eye-catching performance when winning a novice hurdle at this track in December. The time of the race and his finishing sectional was very impressive. He is smart and will have to step up on that in Grade One company now for the Tolworth Hurdle. However, he seems very capable of doing it and the opposition are rated between 125 and 132 and the last few winners of this contest were all rated 140 or higher. Trainer Nicky Henderson would love two chances at bagging another Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and Constitution Hill will join Jonbon in that contest if proving his worth here.
Shallwehaveonemore went through his Ascot race like a smart horse when second to Kandoo Kid. That race will throw up a lot of winners in time and while Shallwehaveonemore was very keen that day, if he learns to relax, he could be the real deal in time.
The Veterans’ Chase is always an exciting contest where Aso is a real class act on his day in the right conditions. He ran a hell of a race behind Blaklion at Haydock last time and with his back form over the years, could just be too good for these. The one worry though is if he gets out of position early, so I’d expect Charlie Deutsch to go for an ‘elbow room’ ride, where Aso sees plenty of daylight, up near the pace. David Pipe’s Gwencily Berbas did us a turn before and can get in the mix again. He hit the front too soon at the track when third to Wandrin Star last November and is a live danger. I will have an each-way saver on him.
Evan Williams has his team in very good form and Mack the Man – who won on seasonal debut in November at Exeter – ran a very good race when last seen before that at this track last March when third to Langer Dan in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup. He is still well handicapped.
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