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Malaita won a bumper at Ludlow in May and has hit the frame in three of her four starts over hurdles, including when runner-up over two miles here last month. Malaita, fitted with a hood for the first time, ran just about her best race yet over hurdles, jumping fluently and travelling well at the head of affairs before ultimately having no answer when headed by the winner at the last. Malaita is back up in trip here, but she has run creditably at around this distance before and she can make the most of the 14 lb she receives from main rival Grange Road.
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Mister Tickle wasn’t at his best when last seen finishing third at Kempton in October but he was taken on for the lead there, while a bare three miles around that speed-favouring course was possibly a sharper test than ideal, so there are excuses for the below-par display. Mister Tickle had won his three previous starts, seemingly improving for the application of blinkers, and he is worth siding with back up in trip on his return from a break.
Greystoke, a dual winner on the Flat for Mick Channon, was underwhelming when only fourth on his hurdling debut for Alan King at Warwick in November, but it’s still early days for him in this sphere and he’s worth another chance after two in-frame efforts on the Flat of late. Greystoke doesn’t look the most straightforward but he possesses ability and is in excellent hands.
Flying Nun is a mare on the up and can complete the hat-trick here. She offered encouragement on her third start in novice company and built on that to make a successful handicap debut at Fontwell, doing well to prevail after having to wait for a gap. The strength Flying Nun showed towards the finish of that two-and-three-quarter-mile affair suggested she would benefit from a step up in trip and so it proved at Taunton last time, where she kept on well to score over three miles. This progressive mare can overcome a 5 lb rise in the weights.
Barden Bella has been in excellent order of late and looks to have been found a nice opportunity here. She bounced back to form when runner-up at Ffos Las in October and followed that up with an eight-length success at Fakenham in January, easily pulling clear after leading on the home turn. She had to settle for second at Chepstow last time, but she arguably put up a career-best effort to split a pair of subsequent winners, and this looks like an easier assignment. Ellis Collier takes off a handy 7 lb.
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Aggagio looked well ahead of his mark when making a successful handicap hurdle debut at Fontwell last week and should prove difficult to beat under a 7 lb penalty. Aggagio, a three-time winner on the Flat, always looked in control after jumping on at the flight that is usually the third-last and he only had to be kept up to his work to score by eight and a half lengths. Given what he showed on the Flat, he looks one to follow at this level.
Lallygag, a brother to the very smart Lalor, was held back by inexperience on his debut for Kayley Woollacott at Taunton last April but he fared better on his first start for Paul Nicholls, finishing runner-up at Newton Abbot in October. Lallygag didn’t need to improve on that effort to get off the mark over this course and distance the following month and he stands out as the one to beat.
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