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Sanctuaire, Qualando and Diego du Charmil were all ex-French, Paul Nicholls-trained juveniles who won the Boodles. They may soon be joined on the roll of honour by HOUX GRIS, who finished a promising third behind Adagio and Nassalam in the Grade 1 Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow on his sole appearance in Britain.
Houx Gris was ultimately beaten more than 20 lengths at Chepstow, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, and his proximity to the front pair crossing the second-last felt like a more accurate representation of his ability and potential. He belted that flight when still in the mix and weakened afterwards, but the way he travelled for much of the race was eye-catching.
Paul Nicholls has likely saved him for this since, and he can prove an opening mark of 128 undersells him by some way. He had looked promising when winning a bumper and a three-year-old hurdle in his native France, and joined new connections for as much as €200,000 in November.
FARCLAS hasn’t hit the heights expected of him since winning the Triumph Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, but he has been showing up well in some ultra-competitive handicap chases this season and looks capable of registering another win at this meeting.
Farclas was off the track for more than 500 days after winning his first three starts over fences in uncompetitive maiden/novice chases, but he shaped with promise when fifth on his return in a handicap chase at Punchestown in November.
He stuck to his task well without ever being able to land a blow. He came on as expected from that encouraging reappearance and was a creditable third in the prestigious Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas.
He then put up an even better effort when a close-up fourth in the Leopardstown Handicap Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. Farclas was only beaten 3-and-a-half lengths last time, but may well have won had he not hit the second-last when making headway. His recent efforts have shown that he is on a competitive mark and that he copes well with big-field handicaps, so he has an obvious chance here.
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STRONG GLANCE jumped poorly on his chasing debut at Ludlow in December and eventually ended up running out at the second-last, but he put that shocking effort behind him when contesting a jumpers’ bumper at Lingfield last month. Strong Glance showed an excellent turn of foot to make rapid headway up the inner and quicken clear inside the final 100 yards, a route not often taken by winners at that venue.
He followed that up with another smooth success on the all-weather at Lingfield, giving weight and a beating to a useful sort, and he is worth another chance to translate his impressive bumper efforts to hurdles.
He has shown some promise over obstacles, most notably when finishing runner-up at Aintree in October after travelling powerfully, and he is one to have on side at a big price as a mark of 131 underplays his ability.
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