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HIGHLAND HUNTER (3.35) can give Paul Nicholls his second Midlands Grand National success at Uttoxeter.
The eight-year-old grey was having only his third start over fences when chasing home Earth Moor at Exeter, producing a sure-footed performance, and this gruelling 4m 2f trip can bring out the best in him against 19 rivals. Nicholls won the race last year with Truckers Lodge and his gelding bids for a repeat off a 12lb higher rating.
Dangers abound and likely favourite Time To Get Up bypassed a Cheltenham engagement in midweek. He should go close for JP McManus and Jonjo O’Neill. Irish raider Screaming Colours is interesting off a low weight after his close second to The Big Dog in the Punchestown Grand National Trial.
Achille is most consistent for Venetia Williams and he pushed course specialist Lord Du Mesnil all the way to the line in the Haydock Grand National Trial. Tommy Rapper has been given a light campaign by Dan Skelton, probably with this race in mind.
Course winner WILDE ABOUT OSCAR (3.00) has landed three of his last four starts for the Skelton operation and top weight may not anchor him in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle.
Course and distance winner Gustavian will have his supporters seeking a hat-trick, while Rockaden did well to beat a couple of higher-rated rivals at Taunton, despite pulling hard.
At Kempton, ZOFFEE (2.05) can get his career back on track in the 2m Virgin Bet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.
He impressed when landing his maiden at Exeter in October and wasn’t disgraced behind Elusive Belle at Newbury. Zoffee was then sent off favourite to land a classier event won by Getaway Trump at Doncaster a fortnight ago but blundered away his chance. Doukarov jumped well when making all at Leicester 18 days ago and Sean Curran has got his gelding in good nick.
Ten runners face the tape in the 2m 5f Virgin Bet Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle and SWITCH HITTER (2.40) makes plenty of appeal.
The six-year-old was a little out of depth when pitched into a warm handicap won by Monte Cristo at Kempton on Boxing Day but wasn’t disgraced in eighth. He had scored previously at the same track, seemingly acting well on the prevailing good ground.
MY WAY (3.15) responded to the fitting of blinkers with a blistering performance over 2m 4f here last month and can defy a 9lb rise in the Virgin Bet Handicap Chase. He made all that day at a good clip and similar forcing tactics will soon sort them out.
Falco Blitz chased home Killer Clown at Kempton’s Boxing Day fixture and went one better next time at Southwell. He set a good gallop that day but may not be able to match strides up front with My Way.
- Uttoxeter 3.35 – Highland Hunter 10/1 (Bet365)
- Uttoxeter 3.00 – Wilde About Oscar 7/2 (Bet365)
- Kempton 2.05 – Zoffee 9/2 (Bet365)
- Kempton 2.40 – Switch Hitter 5/1 (Bet365)
- Kempton 3.15 – My Way 7/2 (Bet365)