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A fascinating Triumph Hurdle trial with SADLER'S RISK taken to repeat his impressive course and distance success in mid-January. Beaten less than four lengths in last season's Chester Vase, the gelding was never threatened on that initial hurdles outing and looks sure to progress with experience. He relishes the prevailing conditions and is preferred to Dildar. The latter scored cosily on his Taunton debut and could be far better than the form suggests. He rates a huge threat, whilst Une Artiste is obviously talented but hasn't encountered good ground in her career to date. Baby Mix is best watched after his Cheltenham disappointment last month.
HUNT BALL is arguably the success story of the chasing season to date, having scored in five of his six outings which has seen his official mark rise from 69 to 127. There are question marks about most of his opponents here, he handles good ground and is worth staying with until his winning run abates. Not So Sure Dick, second to the selection at Wincanton in January, is weighted to reverse the placings and looks the main danger but he lacks the scope of Keiran Burke's charge. Arrayan seems harshly treated on his chasing debut and Fahrisee looks a likelier sort despite carrying top-weight.
Nacarat loves this race and seems sure to get back to something like his best with conditions to suit, while Hennessy runner-up Planet Of Sound and Sandown winner Deep Purple are also accorded the utmost respect despite carrying big weights. However, this event historically goes to something a little less exposed and HECTOR'S CHOICE is worth a chance on his first try over 3m. A winner at Aintree on his seasonal bow in October, Richard Lee's charge has kept creeping up the weights following excellent efforts in defeat but his Cheltenham second to Calgary Bay on New Year's Day reads particularly well in light of that rival's subsequent exploits and the drying ground is very much in his favour, too. Paul Nicholls' duo Royal Charm and Michel Le Bon are both open to improvement and merit plenty of attention, while last year's runner-up Mount Oscar is into the twilight of his career but clearly remains capable.
Alan King takes the novice hurdle route with the exciting GRUMETI who could well prove even more effective on this quick ground, having proved his ability to handle such conditions on the Flat. He's looked a natural over timber and may have too many gears for Keys, who failed to quicken past Super Duty at Ascot recently and now drops back in trip. Terre Du Vent is a fascinating newcomer having performed more than creditably in Listed and Group company in France. Dodging Bullets, an Irish import, is another interesting hurdling debutant.
Paul Nicholls' French import, Cristal Bonus, impressed when scoring at Chepstow last time and looks a promising chase recruit but has yet to operate on good ground in 12 career starts and, therefore, MINELLA CLASS is preferred. A respectable runner-up to Peddlers Cross on his chasing debut, he was travelling sweetly when coming to grief behind Cue Card at Newbury when last seen, since when he's been given a good rest by Nicky Henderson. He may have too much class for Zaynar in receipt of 7lb, whilst Duke Of Lucca needs to put a very poor latest effort behind him.
ASHBRITTLE looks on a decent mark for his handicap debut and can rediscover the winning thread after being outpaced by the useful Into Wain at Wetherby last time. He seems certain to appreciate the significant increase in trip and although yet to encounter good ground over hurdles, he does have winning form over a trip under such conditions on the level. The Reformer has scope for improvement and should give a good account, whilst So Fine has been in decent heart this term and certainly merits a shortlist spot, likewise the well-treated Semi Colon on this return to timber.
A strangely low-key turnout for the bumper with VIRGINIA ASH taken to build on a highly promising Cheltenham debut behind The New One. The form of that contest looks strong (the winner is reportedly heading for the Cheltenham bumper) and he can take full advantage of the 7lb he receives from previous winner Starving Marvin. The latter quickened up nicely to score on his Warwick debut and also rates a nice prospect. Off The Wall is another that needs to be considered after a couple of solid bumper efforts.
A race that has spawned several smart types over the years, and every chance it will be a similar story again. Sadler's Risk created a big impression over C&D on his hurdling debut, and can take his form to another level here. There is likely plenty more to come from Une Artiste and Dildar, while Baby Mix would also be a threat if bouncing back from his below-par effort last time.Timeform 1-2-3
The progressive Hunt Ball won again at Wincanton last weekend and is fancied to maintain his superb run of form. Not So Sure Dick chased him home at the same venue in January and should get closer at the revised weights, with useful hurdler Arrayan also worth a second look in the betting on his chase debut.Timeform 1-2-3
Not the strongest renewal and a chance is taken on Michel Le Bon, who probably did as well as could realistically be expected given his inexperience in the Hennessy last time. This should be less daunting and he may yet reward the faith of his powerful connections. Nacarat would be a live danger if bouncing back, with Hector's Choice and Planet of Sound also respected.Timeform 1-2-3
Keys may well improve for the application of blinkers, but Grumeti is taken to confirm his status as one fo the leading Triumph Hurdle fancies in receipt of 2 lb.Timeform 1-2-3
Paul Nicholls took this 5 times in succession from 2006 to 2010 and, despite the yard going through a quiet spell, Cristal Bonus is a strong fancy to follow up his impressive Chepstow success. Grade 1-winning hurdler Minella Class is unexposed over fences and looks the main danger.Timeform 1-2-3
A competitive event. Ashbrittle's opening mark looks a fair one and looks sure to run a big race now upped in trip with headgear fitted. So Fine and The Reformer head a list of many dangers.Timeform 1-2-3
Starving Marvin has to carry a penalty and Off The Wall was beaten at odds-on last time, so the vote goes to Virginia Ash, who will be suited by this extra distance after shaping well in a listed event at Cheltenham on New Year's Day.Timeform 1-2-3
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