Alan Thomson expects Elegant Escape to repeat last year's Welsh Grand National success and is very sweet on a Wolverhampton favourite.
BUBBLE AND SQUEAK (3.40) has a very obvious chance of repeating her recent course victory over Stay Classy at Wolverhampton.
Sylvester Kirk's filly had only half a length to spare over that rival earlier this month but finds herself 5lb better off. Stay Classy has since won very comfortably at Lingfield and is clearly in good heart, but the formbook says she won't beat Bubble And Squeak.
STAR OF ATHENA (4.10) is trading around 5-1 on Betfair and will be difficult to knock out of the frame in the 1m 6f handicap. Ali Strong'e filly strode clear for a five lengths victory over course and distance in early November and is fancied to beat hat-trick seeker Herm.
At biggers odds YUKON MISSION (2.25) is interesting in the Fillies' Novice Stakes. John Quinn pitched her into a deep Novice Stakes at Chelmsford City and she ran quite nicely behind the boys, finishing a never-nearer fifth to Charlie Appleby's Story Of Light. Market vibes are important in this type of race but she can be bet ew at 10-1 with Paddy Power (bigger on the exchanges). Favourite Never In Paris has to concede 7lb all round and hasn't been seen since running eighth in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury in July. She scored on debut at Nottingham and is clearly pretty nifty. Mark Johnston's True Believer met an improver in Arriviste at Chelmsford City 16 days ago and is fairly certain to go well.
ELEGANT ESCAPE (2.50) is an unimaginative but logical choice to repeat last year’s success in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.
The juice has been squeezed out of his price but Colin Tizzard’s top weight can become only the second horse in recent years to notch back-to-back victories, a feat not accomplished since Martin Pipe’s popular Bonanza Boy did the double in 1988-89.
Elegant Escape has to lump 11st 12lb over 3m 6f on heavy ground but he is actually quite well treated on paper as his new official rating, which rose on the back of his excellent third to De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, doesn’t apply in this early-closing entry contest.
Yala Enki finished third last year when trained by Venetia Williams and is 8lb better off for a five lengths beating. He has since joined Paul Nicholls following a wind procedure and is held by the selection on last month’s Newbury comeback run. Yala Enki likes to bowl along and will handle conditions, so merits consideration.
Course winner Now McGinty will provide competition for the lead and Stuart Edmunds throws him into the deep end on the back of his head defeat at the hands of 1-3 hotpot Santini at Sandown last month. He beat De Rasher Counter in a Novices’ Chase here in January, form which puts him bang in the mix, despite his relative inexperience.
Truckers Lodge lacks a turn of foot but this is a race tailor-made for dogged staying types. He fits the bill on that score and has a fine track record, both over hurdles and fences. A couple at bigger odds worth considering are Prime Venture, representing Welshman Evan Williams, and steadily-improving The Two Amigos. Some firms are offering five places.
Local hero Williams has other winning prospects on the support card, principally with CLYNE (2.10) in the 3m handicap hurdle.
The nine-year-old acts on heavy ground and has slid down the ratings to an attractive mark. Clyne was sent off favourite at Aintree almost three weeks ago and looked a bit one-paced in fourth over an inadequate 2m 4f distance. The stable landed this race last year with Virginia Chick and Clyne gets the ew nod over market leader Acey Milan. He did very well to split Stoney Mountain and Tedham at Haydock in November and should be prominent along with useful novice Ask Dillon.
The Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle sees Allmankind bidding to rattle off a hat-trick for Dan Skelton since a switch from Michael Bell. The free-going gelding beat Botox Has at Cheltenham and the runner-up looked useful when bolting up next time
Allmankind is disputing favouritism with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Cerberus, the Irish raider having accounted for A Wave Of The Sea at Fairyhouse. A Wave Of The Sea trailed 35 lengths behind Aspire Tower at Leopardstown yesterday and the each-way recommendation is TAVUS (1.35). Jedd O’Keeffe’s three-year-old held off Navajo Pass by a neck at Newcastle (heavy) and the runner-up looked smart when scooping a Grade 2 Hurdle at Doncaster next time. He looks an ew bet to nothing at around 5-1.
At Kempton, CULTURE DE SIVOLA (1.55) must go close, despite carrying top weight in the Ladbrokes Mares’ Handicap Hurdle over three miles. She is a stout stayer but can compromise her chance by hitting a flat spot before running on again. That was the scenario when she hunted up Papgana in a Listed contest over course and distance in November. Fourth horse Annie Mc impressed when quickening clear over fences at Wincanton yesterday and Culture De Sivola should find this company less daunting.
Charlie Deutsch’s mount BELAMI DES PICTONS (3.05) wouldn’t need to build on his fourth to Happy Diva in the BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham to take a hand in the finish of the three-mile handicap chase. That latest run came over 2m 4f but he beat Arctic Gold by 22 lengths when sent over three miles at Warwick in February (heavy).
Harry Fry and Sean Bowen were among the winners yesterday and Just A Sting could be running back into form. The gelding finished second to Adrien Du Pont in this event last year and is 3lb lower. The first-time cheek-pieces he wore on comeback at Wincanton when fourth to Give Me A Copper are retained. Quaranta has won three of his last six outings at a lower level and should again go well for a yard in flying form.
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