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By Alan Magee - MINELLA COCOONER was one of the leading staying novice hurdlers last season and switches to fences here as part of an exciting trio of runners from the powerful Willie Mullins yard. The selection won a 2m6f Grade 1 at Leopardstown and was runner-up to stablemate The Nice Guy at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. The Closutton team is bolstered by Whatdeawant, placed behind Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and Classic Getaway who was a very expensive purchase after winning his point-to-point. Journey With Me won twice over hurdles last term and would have been placed behind Sir Gerhard at Cheltenham but for falling at the last.
By Alan Magee - WILLYWAMPUS has taken well to fences recently and after going down narrowly to Scalor at Thurles, again jumped well out in front when second to the long odds-on Kilcruit at Punchestown last Saturday. This race (for horses rated 102 or less over hurdles) represents a big drop in class compared to the latest assignment and hopefully he can maintain that level of form. Yabo has been placed on all four completed starts over fences and should go close again. The Wexford maiden hurdle winner appears to go well fresh. Gondor has filled the runner-up spot on his latest two starts in staying handicap hurdles while Hardwired also drops back in trip following placed efforts recently both over hurdles and fences.
By Alan Magee - ARCHIES CHARM recorded an easy win at Downpatrick last year but was then off the track for 12 months before reappearing over hurdles at Galway last month. He was entitled to need that run and subsequently went close over three miles at Down Royal with Arctic Ambition, successful at Thurles on Thursday, well back in third. This 2m4f may prove enough of a stamina test on the testing ground. Gevrey hails from a yard in irresistible form at present and has won three times over fences this year all around this trip. The latest of those victories came at Limerick last month and the form of that win has been boosted since by runner-up Optional Mix. He’s now fitted with cheek pieces after another solid effort at Down Royal. Stablemate Dunboyne is another to consider while Street Value needs to bounce back after a disappointing run at Limerick.
By Alan Magee - INOTHEWAYURTHINKIN hails from a family that has served connections well in the past and it’s interesting to note that Mark Walsh feels he could be the best of them following a winning debut at Cork last month. He was well-backed on that occasion when beating Lot Of Joy, who previously went close off a mark of 93 in the Irish Cesarewitch. Wexford maiden winner Imagine brings Graded form to the table having filled the runner-up spot in the For Auction Novice at Navan. Spanish Harlem won his only hurdle start at Auteuil in June and was bought by connections the following month for 360,000 at Arqana. It will be very interesting to see how strong in the market the Spanish Moon gelding is here.
By Michael Graham - KALANISI STAR was mightily impressive in a point-to-point bumper at this track in March. The former point-to-point winner sluiced through the heavy ground to win by an emphatic 16 lengths. To put that effort into context, the runner-up has since won a bumper and a maiden hurdle. On better ground, Pink In The Park would be the selection. She is being aimed at the mares' novices' hurdle at Cheltenham. In a recent stable tour, Willie Mullins reported that she has been working well ahead of this first crack at hurdling. She has smart bumper form in the book, but testing ground would be a concern. Mullins' record in this race is beyond reproach, though. Blackwater is likely to show much more after weakening to fifth in a Punchestown bumper in February.
By Michael Graham - ENCHANTED MAGIC has switched to Willie Mullins after winning a maiden hurdle over CD in February for Eoin Doyle. He had several subsequent winners behind him and deep ground will hold no fears for him in his first handicap. Hey Johnny was backed down to favouritism for a novices' handicap hurdle at Cheltenham, but unseated his rider at the first. He is better judged on his victory on penultimate start in Clonmel. Kilbeggan maiden hurdle winner Itwasfate could go well for Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. Backintheroom is another maiden hurdle winner over CD. He wasn't at his best when tailed off in a rated novice hurdle at Punchestown last weekend, but is likely to be much sharper now. Marelly was second to Hey Johnny in Clonmel and isn't out of it.
By Michael Graham - BANADA BRIDGE was picked off before the last over this trip in Fairyhouse this month, but could go one better here. That was her best effort to date and she has the benefit of being placed in a handicap hurdle over CD on her penultimate outing in October. Shean Glory was beaten a fair way into second at Limerick on Tuesday by a runaway winner, but that wasn't a bad spin and she attracted plenty of support. Haveuseentherain wasn't beaten overly far into sixth over further at Fairyhouse and could get involved in this weak race. Aodhan May is returning off a break and could show more. Just two runs back, she went off favourite for a handicap hurdle in Clonmel. First-reserve Indie Belle would have stronger claims than most if getting a run.
- THE BIG JETAWAY was last seen securing an easy victory at Sedgefield in February and a 5lb raised mark for that success may not be enough to stop him on his return from a break. He boasts a respectable record fresh so can make his presence felt, while Feel The Pinch seeks to improve on his chasing bow following a reasonable fourth over timber at Lingfield earlier this month. Crack Du Ninian is another to bear in mind.
- BARRICHELLO made a pleasing return to action when securing a good third at Uttoxeter over 2m last month and a stiffer stamina test can see him build on that given he was keeping on well on that occasion. Harper's Brook would be dangerous to dismiss with his latest run in mind, while Wild Romance remains very unexposed and open to improvement on her chasing bow despite returning from a 743-day absence.
- There was no stopping Tim Pat at the end of last season and Donald McCain's charge secured a hat-trick from February to March. He is unbeaten over fences and arrives here following a wind operation. It could be worth siding with the Dan Skelton-trained JEFFERY'S CROSS, though. He came back from a break to finish a distant second at Fontwell last month but, off 2lb lower, he can improve on that. Lounge Lizard is another to consider.
- The Henry Daly stable can do little wrong at present and DUKE OF MORAVIA can provide another winner as he looks to improve on a promising Rules debut effort at Hereford. The son of Marcel seemed to get the hang of things late on there and he is narrowly preferred to impressive C&D winner Gwennie May Boy, who has a 6lb penalty to overcome. Grain D'oudairies cannot be ruled out either.
- An impressive winner of an Irish point-to-point in February, a chance can be taken on newcomer HAVEANOTHERGOFLO. The Donald McCain yard knows how to ready one and he may have too much for the likes of Horacio Apple's, who performed with credit at Carlisle on his hurdles bow, and Val Dancer, who would hold strong claims if bouncing back to the form of his penultimate effort.
- Runasimi River is the highest rated of these mares and she returns to hurdling after running over the larger obstacles of late, which may spark an improved display. The nod, however, goes to GALANTE DE ROMAY, who is likely to enjoy this step up in trip after running on nicely over 2m at Ffos Las. Walk In My Shoes appears to be the biggest danger on her return from an absence.
- Blue Fin was starting to get the hang of things in point-to-points, with a couple of placed efforts earlier in the year, and he should be capable of competing in a race of this nature, but he appears vulnerable to WAY OUT, who has the benefit of experience under Rules. Syd Hosie's charge was a winner of a point-to-point in March before running second of 12 in an Ascot bumper. Sole Solution rates best of the rest.
- In a competitive contest, marginal preference is for LORD SPARKY on his return to fences. Despite failing to justify favouritism over hurdles last time out, the Stuart Edmunds-trained gelding brushed aside his rivals in a chase at Huntingdon in October and a 4lb rise for that effort may not be insurmountable. Blame The Game demands the utmost respect after recording a decisive victory over this trip at Fontwell last time out, while Mance Rayder gave a good account when runner-up at Newcastle earlier this month and he completes the shortlist.
- RARE EDITION got off the mark over hurdles in emphatic style at Worcester last time out, brushing aside his rivals to justify a short price. His half-brother, Pencilfulloflead, was a useful hurdler and, although the five-year-old may be seen to best effect over further, he can continue his ascendancy today by defying a penalty. Matchless also carries a penalty after shedding the maiden tag at the first time of asking at Newcastle and could mount a bold challenge, while Cillians Charm can follow them home.
- Despite hanging left late on, TOUCHY FEELY gave a good account when runner-up to a progressive mare in a bumper at Bangor-on-Dee in May. The five-year-old's dam was a useful hurdler in France and it would be no surprise if she got off the mark at the fourth time of asking. Rose Of Siena has been edging towards a first career victory and merits the utmost respect, while La Gomera arrives after winning a point-to-point in May and is also worth observing.
- Filey Bay looks potentially well treated from an opening mark of 117, but he has been off the track for over a year and preference is for EL BORRACHO. The seven-year-old has been in good form over the larger obstacles and from 14lb below his chase mark, he might have been found an ideal opportunity back over hurdles for his in-form yard. Faron hit the crossbar at Ballinrobe in August and another bold showing appears to be on the cards.
- NOTHIN TO ASK made an immediate impact when sent chasing at Chepstow last month, running out a comfortable winner, and though an 8lb higher mark demands more, it's unlikely that the son of Ask has reached the peak of his powers yet. Rocky Lake made a promising chase debut at Bangor last time out and is entitled to improve with that experience under his belt, while East Street, who represents the same connections is another to be interested in.
- It's very hard to get away from the likeable FINISK RIVER, who has been in smashing form since the summer and appears to be getting better with each judging by his facile victory at Sedgefield recently. The biggest threat may come from Big Bad Bear, who was successful in this race two years ago and showed his wel-lbeing when going down narrowly at Market Rasen last month. Top-weight Stoner's Choice is entitled to have come on from his Carlisle outing and merits respect.
- The Charlie Longsdon-trained IMPERIAL JADE has plenty of speed in her pedigree and gets a tentative vote on debut in what looks a wide-open finale. She was picked up for 20,000 guineas in the yearlings sale and any market confidence behind this daughter of Harzand could be significant. Tedtwo was a respectable third in a junior bumper at Market Rasen last month and this extra yardage should only play to his strengths. If he has learned to settle better then Point Franklin is another who can be considered.
- LUCCIA made quite the impression when bolting up in a Listed bumper at Sandown in March, making it two wins from two, and she could be one to watch over hurdles this season. Both of her career wins have been on soft ground but, being by The Gurkha, she should haven no issue with drier conditions here. Poetic Music did it well on her hurdles bow at Ludlow and she can give the selection most to do, along with C&D winner Carole's Pass, who is taken to uphold form with She's A Saint (second).
- THYME HILL may not have been foot-perfect on his chase debut at Exeter but he was well on top at the finish and with improvement expected, he can make his class tell once more. Philip Hobbs' charge is unbeaten at this track and should have too much for the talented, yet enigmatic McFabulous, who showed what he is capable when getting into a rhythm at Exeter last time out. A Grade 1 winner at Aintree in April, Gelino Bello's debut win over fences at Wetherby is likely to need improving upon.
- Marginal preference is for DEMACHINE, who impressed at Uttoxeter in May and could still be well handicapped, having finished fifth in the Ladbrokes Trophy on this card last year off 2lb higher. Cap Du Nord (2020) and Kapcorse (2018, 2021) have won three of the last four renewals of this contest between them and both are likely to be in the mix again. Killer Kane might come on for his recent return at Exeter and should also not be taken lightly.
- Plenty of connections will be arriving here confident that their charges can land this prize, but the nod goes to PEKING ROSE. Fergal O'Brien's seven-year-old ran on gamely to land a 2m4f contest at Aintree in October and the 3lb rise for that success may prove lenient here. Petit Tonnerre was in third on that occasion and he arrives here on better terms, but may still struggle to reverse that form with the winner. West Balboa is having her first run since December and she could prove to be a nice type for the Skelton team.
- Plenty of in-form horses arrive here with their connections hoping to score in this competitive heat, and preference is for PIKAR. Dan Skelton's charge was a good winner of a 14-runner race over 2m at Chepstow on his latest outing and that form has since been franked by the fourth scoring, while the third fell at the last when seemingly in command of his subsequent start. Theatre Glory arrives here seeking a four-timer and she ranks as the biggest danger, while First Street should also be thereabouts.
- A highly-competitive Coral Gold Cup in which preference is for the Paul Nicholls-trained THREEUNDERTHRUFIVE. A dual Grade 2 chase winner last season, the son of Shantou made a creditable return to action when finishing third in the bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby last month and can build on that in first-time cheekpieces. His stable is in flying form and with 15 of the past 17 winners being rated 145 or higher, he has to be respected off a mark of 151. Remastered was going easily in this last year when coming to grief at the fourth-last fence and merits serious consideration, along with this year's Ultima winner Corach Rambler. Others that should not be taken lightly include Gericault Roque and Fiddlerontheroof.
- AMARILLO SKY kept on well to land a competitive handicap at Cheltenham earlier this month and a 4lb raised mark may not be enough to stop him following up in this contest. He looked outpaced in Grade 3 and Grade 1 contests at the back-end of last season but his latest run proved this is a much more suitable level for him to get his head in front in. Monsieur Lecoq fell early on in a Grade 3 at Ascot last month and can improve today, while Eclair D'Ainay is another to bear in mind.
- CABRAKAN shaped with promise on his hurdling bow at Exeter six days ago and he could prove difficult to beat with that experience under his belt. Ring Of Beara rated highest of these on the level and he could offer the biggest threat if translating that form to this sphere, while Tessy Lad, who arrives on the back of a win at Wolverhampton last month, could also play a leading role.
- CAPTAIN QUINT made a winning start to life over fences at Hexham earlier this month and, with further improvement likely, Rose Dobbin's charge could have the measure of his rivals. Twoshotsoftequila, who finished fourth behind the selection, gets a 7lb pull at the weights and he could close the gap. The consistent Broadway Joe shaped well on his return to action at Kelso and is likely to be in the thick of things too.
- Unbeaten in two starts over hurdles, MOFASA sets a fairly lofty standard with an official rating of 134. Michael Scudamore's charge saw off some smart prospects at Cheltenham on his latest outing and he's expected to prove difficult to beat despite having to concede weights to his rivals. Tiger Jet ought to appreciate the return to novice company and stepping down from 3m, which appeared to stretch him at Aintree. Imperial B G is another to note.
- LORD ROCO ran a cracking race on his seasonal/chase debut at Ayr recently and is entitled to have come on for that outing. The six-year-old gelding won a maiden hurdle here in January and looks primed for a big run. Gavin Cromwell won't have many runners at this venue and it's worth noting that Shantou Lucky is his only runner on the card. Malinello hasn't been seen for the best part of two years but, if transferring his hurdles form to the larger obstacles, he could also go well.
- All eyes will be on CONSTITUTION HILL, who has been rerouted here after his withdrawal at Ascot last weekend. He was a hugely impressive winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham and is fascinating now stepping into open company. Stablemate Epatante, who is bidding to land this for the third year in succession having dead-heated last year, will keep the selection honest in receipt of 7lb. Not So Sleepy played his part in last year's thrilling finish and must also be taken seriously.
- WAR SOLDIER couldn't land a gamble on his hurdles debut at Wetherby last month but he finished his race full of running and, with plenty of improvement expected, he can supplement his bumper success here last December. Runner-up at Naas when last seen in February, Thistle Ask is an intriguing recruit to the James Ewart stable, while the form of Sergeant Wilson's third at Chepstow has worked out well.
- L'HOMME PRESSE is the clear standout, having swept all before him as a novice last season. His only defeat at Aintree came on the back of a long season and he should be primed on his return for a stable that is beginning to click into gear. Last year's winner Aye Right can give him plenty to think about on the front end, while the progressive Into Overdrive can also have a say in proceedings.
- ZAAKARA was by no means disgraced when third of four on her latest outing at Pontefract and the Sir Michael Stoute-trained filly gets the nod to shed the maiden tag in this contest. Considering she is a half-sister to Australian Group 1 winner Zaaki, it would be no surprise if she relished this step up in trip and receives the tentative vote. As a daughter of Frankel, Moving Colours must be respected, while Klimova is another to consider.
- While SO MANY QUESTIONS was no match for the decisive winner over C&D on his racecourse debut, the son of Showcasing gave a good account to snatch the runner-up spot late on. The two-year-old cost 85,000 pounds as a yearling and, considering he is related to plenty of winners over this trip, he gets the nod to shed the maiden tag. Great State was just a head back in third on that occasion and may be able to mount a bold bid, while Soaring Eagle completes the shortlist.
- SUANNI showed a willing attitude to shed the maiden tag over C&D last time out and it would be no surprise if the three-year-old can repeat that feat off 4lb higher. Despite swerving left out of the stalls, the son of Lethal Force kept on in determined fashion and he gets the tentative nod to go in again. Yaahobby relished the step back in trip when landing the spoils at this venue on his latest outing and he rates the most immediate danger, while Level Up is another to consider.
- STATU OF LIBERTY is the one with the most experience in this field and Brian Meehan's runner shed her maiden tag on her previous outing when scoring over 6f at Newcastle. This extra yardage should be no problem after staying on powerfully that day and she can follow up that success here. Way To Amarillo has shaped as though she will be capable of scoring in a contest of this nature, while Warren Hill should have improved for her debut effort.
- GLITTERING LIGHTS has made a pleasing start to her career and this looks like a nice opportunity to shed her maiden tag. This drop in trip is likely to be a positive for the Godolphin runner after not quite getting the mile at Kempton on her latest outing and there should be more to come after only two starts. Rajindri ranks as the biggest danger after a good second on her racecourse debut over 7f at Kempton, while Coral Reef should also have improved for her debut over 6f at Haydock in June.
- Milbanke has been running consistently well over C&D of late and he is likely to be challenging at the line once again, but slight preference is for VISIBILITY. Scott Dixon's charge disappointed last time over C&D but he should take the beating on the form of his penultimate start, where he was just touched off over the extended mile at this venue. Huddleton Mac heads the remainder.
- LE CHEVAL RAPIDE ran a fine race on his all-weather debut when runner-up at Kempton last month and, although he's been raised 3lb for that effort, Zak Wheatley claims a handy 5lb allowance and he should be competitive. This drop back in trip could suit previous course winner Eye Of The Water, who has the cheekpieces applied for the first time. Liberty Breeze must enter calculations too.
- Alexandra Dunn may have found the key to CAILIN SAOIRSE, who has been tried over a variety of trips but seemed to find her calling card when scoring with a little up her sleeve over C&D last month. She stumbled out of the stalls on that occasion but was well on top at the end. Although Cotai Class remains a maiden, she's gone close on a number of occasions and did perform well on her one and only start on this surface. Miss Calculation is also respected.
- MASQOOL saw his winning run come to an end when going down narrowly at Kempton recently where he was arguably unlucky having been hampered at crucial stage. He looks to have strong credentials and can get back on track. Covert Mission has been given a 2lb hike following his battling victory last month but has shown a clear liking for the all-weather surface and remains of interest. The consistent Billy Roberts can also get competitive.
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