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There’s a slight note of caution with NOCTE VOLATUS given that he ran out at the first fence at Hereford last time, but he won in fine style at Catterick previously and is taken to defy a 12lb higher mark today. Full Of Surprises was a good second at Catterick last month on her first start since wind surgery and is second choice, although Ahead Of The Field and Avoid De Master are also respected.
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Two-time bumper winner SKYTASTIC is held in extremely high regard by trainer Sam Thomas and this unbeaten 6yo is taken to make a winning hurdle debut on his first start since last February. Godrevy Point went very close here last time out and is feared most, ahead of the Nicky Henderson pair Commodore Miller and Hyland who are open to improvement.
Topweight FUNAMBULE SIVOLA (nap) is handicapped to run a big race on his best 2021 form and can be forgiven his defeat at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, when he was found out by the stiff, extended 2m4f on soft ground. He drops back down in trip today and is the selection ahead of Before Midnight, who completed a four-timer in November before facing a very tough task behind Shishkin over Christmas.
It was an improved performance from WHITE PEPPER when she won at Fairyhouse recently and that form reads well in today’s context. There’s a possibility Six Feet Apart will appreciate today’s return to better ground and she may be the main danger. Sea Sessions beat the two aforementioned fellow Irish fillies when winning a Listed race at Aintree last month and is respected under a 5lb penalty, while La Renommee has to be of interest given the promise she showed in France.
Gavin Cromwell’s newcomer Foxhollow is an unknown quantity but the tentative selection is Dan Skelton’s new recruit RIDGEWAY, who was fairly useful on the Flat and showed his form as recently as the autumn. Arij was better than him on the Flat but all his best form was recorded on the AW. Imperial Hope (second choice) will be dangerous if able to bounce back from his disappointing run in November, while Creggan White Hare was good enough to win a bumper last season.
Ace Time stuck form towards the end of last year and is respected as he bids to complete a hat-trick but the suggestion is YOU NAME HIM, who usually races a over a bit further but will benefit from today’s return to good ground and has become very well handicapped even before Dylan Kitts’ 10lb claim is considered. Killane didn’t fire last time but is a dual hurdle winner this season and may still have more to offer.
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The 4yo filly Angels Landing receives a 13lb juvenile allowance on her handicap debut and could be favourably treated, but she appeared unsuited by a left-handed track two starts ago and there’s the same concern today. Preference is for LES’S LEGACY, who was a promising second on good ground at Newcastle two starts ago and is back on a sounder surface today having been pulled up on soft going at Musselburgh last time (when he reportedly lost his action). Taragrace and Mind Hunter are others who could run well.
Flexi Furlough earns high marks for her consistency in recent months but preference is for CLASSIC ESCAPE who gave a good account in a marathon chase on his recent stable debut and now switches back to hurdling on a good mark. Get Prepared is open to improvement on this first attempt at 3m, while Sammylou and Court Dreaming will be suited by today’s return to good ground and also have possibilities.
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