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Greatest Star shaped as if needing the run when only fourth on his hurdles debut at Hereford in November and he duly took a big step forward to get off the mark at Southwell a few weeks later. Greatest Star has been handed a fair mark as he heads into handicap company and, in excellent hands with Dan Skelton, he might still have a bit more to offer after only two starts over hurdles. The tongue-tie, which was fitted for the first time at Southwell, is unsurprisingly retained.
Brave Seasca followed up a wide-margin win over this course and distance with a decisive victory at Ascot, so a 9 lb rise in the weights may not be enough to stop this progressive chaser from completing the hat-trick. Brave Seasca won with a lot more in hand than the three-length margin would suggest at Ascot as he had the race in safe-keeping from a fair way out, and this lightly-raced sort has not stopped improving yet. The continued good form of trainer Venetia Williams is another factor in his favour.
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Threeunderthrufive won four of his five outings over hurdles last season and he has also proved prolific over fences this terms, winning three of his first four starts. Threeunderthrufive had to settle for second on his chasing debut at Chepstow but he showed improved form to score at Exeter and has since defied a penalty at Cheltenham before landing a weak Grade 2 at Doncaster. His form is comfortably the best on offer and, even under a penalty, this looks like a good opportunity for Threeunderthrufive to extend his winning sequence.
Stag Horn was a smart stayer on the Flat and he made a pleasing start over hurdles when beating a subsequent winner at Hereford last month. Stag Horn only won by a length and three-quarters but he had more in hand than that margin would suggest as he looked in command turning for home and was only closed down late on when the race was in the bag. He is entitled to progress for that initial experience and there could be a lot more to come from him over hurdles.
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Gericault Roque is an improving young chaser and looks up to landing this valuable prize. He may still be searching for his first win over fences but he has simply been unlucky to bump into a couple of really well-handicapped rivals the last twice. At Chepstow Gericault Roque got to within half a length of Pats Fancy, who has since scored from a 10 lb higher mark, and at Newbury he was beaten only be a progressive four-year-old who was completing a hat-trick. There was plenty to like about how Gericault Roque went through that race at Newbury as he travelled well, jumped fluently and stuck to his task, pulling 11 lengths clear of the third. He remains on a handy mark despite going up another 6 lb.
Alaphilippe enjoyed a productive campaign over hurdles last season, winning three of his five starts, most notably the Grade 2 Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock. He was also by no means disgraced when fifth in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, so this unexposed hurdler looks up to making a big impact off an opening BHA handicap mark of 140.
There’s no form to go on in this newcomers’ bumper but Luccia represents a leading trainer in Nicky Henderson and is a close relation to Hooper, who showed useful form over hurdles for these connections. Luccia is a four-year-old filly, so she receives plenty of weight in allowances from her rivals, while rider Ben Ffrench Davis is able to claim another 7 lb.
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