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In theory, this should be between three horses. Bombs Away, Cirque Royal & RICHMOND LAKE, and I'm siding with the latter.
It's always dangerous to underestimate newcomers, but they will have to be smart horses, and produce a big effort to beat the horses with experience. Bombs Away will probably go off favourite, and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if he goes odds-on, due to the Trainer/jockey/owner combination. I think he is a good horse for the future, but maybe he will be seen to best effect when they put him up in trip to 2m 4f, and potentially further. His bumper form is average, but his hurdling debut was a taking run. He looked like a true stayer on the back of that performance, as he powered up the Sandown Hill on soft ground. Even though he will get soft ground today, I think the flatter track and the fact that Richmond Lake should get an easy lead of things, won't suit.
Like I just mentioned, Richmond Lake surely goes from the front again after he was so impressive at Bangor last month. He clearly enjoyed those tactics, and it would be baffling if they didn't try the same again. I think he is the quicker horse of the two, so the fact that he should lead, means it could be tactical and if Theo Gillard fancies a sprint finish, it could catch the others out. The form of that Bangor race has started to work out nicely, with the 2nd and 3rd winning since, and I do think the 2nd is a decent horse, so the fact that he trounced him, was quite impressive. Hopefully the favourite continues to shorten, so we can get a drift on Richmond Lake.
A mark of 108 definitely still looks workable for TO BE SURE, who clearly bumped into one last time out when finishing runner-up to Lossiemouth, who was an impressive winner in the Grade 2 at Sandown yesterday.
The selection travelled strongly throughout the race when they met at Ffos Las, but didn't have the gears to go with the winner, which is no surprise in hindsight. The winner was clearly well handicapped, and is a very good horse, so it's no shame to finish 2nd to him. To Be Sure arrived at Ffos Las having won there the time before, where he won in stylish fashion. He won by 2.75L, but he was eased towards the finish, and it was a dour staying performance on soft ground, which is something you'll need today. That was off a mark of 102, which means he is only 1lb higher today with Isabel Williams taking off 5lbs. With the claimer taking the ride, it means he races off a decent weight of 10st 11lbs, which is the 2nd bottom weight in the race, which is a big bonus when the ground is as testing as it is at Aintree.
This race doesn't seem to have horses who are extremely well handicapped, and I think this horse still is, and he is already proven to stay this trip and handle the ground.
Galahad Quest is a horse who has ran some decent races so far this season, and I wouldn't put anyone off from backing him, but I feel he is a tad too short in the market at the time of writing, and I think MIDNIGHTREFERENDUM is a good alternative.
This horse is ultra consistent, but is tricky to win with, but that not down to the fact that she's awkward, it's probably because it's difficult to understand what is her optimal conditions. She travels very strongly through her races, like she did last time out at Market Rasen over 3m, but she doesn't quite see it out as strong as others at that trip. Which is why I think testing ground on a Flat track at this trip could be the key to her success. A big field handicap should ensure that a good pace is set, which will allow her to creep into the race with her high cruising speed, and then the extra stamina which she does have, should allow her to finish off the race stronger than the others. She is only rated 131, which is definitely within reach, as she has ran well in Class 1 Mares' races in the past. Bookies are offering better places on this race, so take advantage of those.
I was very taken by SNOW LEOPARDESS at Bangor last time out, as she jumped beautifully throughout, and it was meant as as a prep run for this race, as they've had this in mind for a long time. The fact it was a prep race, yet she won in the manner she did, is impressive as they wouldn't have had her 100% for that race, but she still put it a masterclass round of jumping and beat some very good horses.
Charlie Longsdon has been very bullish about this horse for a long time, and he's mentioned this being the main target for her this season, and when a trainer says that, it should always be noted. She has to prove that she'll handle the fences, but the manner in which she jumps suggests that she should be fine. She is a brave horse who really attacks her fences, which could spell disaster, but it will mean she will be giving it a good go, rather than being defeated before she's even jumped them. Her price is a little skinnier than I'd like, but there is a lot of hype around her for this race, and a lot of people are latching onto her as one who could really find a new level over these fences. I will be taking advantage of the extra places on offer, but I do believe she will be tough to beat if she remains on her feet.
I think you've got to be against Chacun Pour Soi in the Tingle Creek. He has only ran once in Britain, and that was in the Champion Chase last year, where he finished behind NUBE NEGRA. He reversed the form the time after when the Skelton horse travelled over to Ireland to go against him at Punchestown, but there are reasons to believe Nube Negra will finish ahead of him again today.
Obviously, Chacun is a top quality animal, but there's a niggling doubt in my mind when it comes to a stiff testing track like Cheltenham and Sandown. I'm not for one bit saying he's a flat track bully, but I think he could be better on that kind of track. He was outstayed in the Champion Chase by Nube Negra, in my opinion, and with the latter named horse having a fitness edge and with the stiff finish at Sandown, I think it could be a similar scenario today. If you're backing him at odds-on you're a braver man than me, as I do think Nube Negra is still progressing, and he is still only 7yo!
Nube Negra's run last time out was impressive to my eyes. I thought he would win, but he did it so easily. This is obviously a tougher race, but for a first run of the season, and a prep run for this race, connections must've been buzzing with that performance, as he looked like an absolute weapon. Thankfully, it looks like the rain has stayed away from Sandown, which should make his chances all the greater, as his best form has come on good or good-to-soft.