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Saga De Tercey appeared to benefit from the application of blinkers (worn again today) when scoring readily at Musselburgh last time and warrants plenty of respect in his bid to follow up, but ANYCHANCEDAVE gets the vote in receipt of 7lb. This talented bumper performer made a promising debut over hurdles when runner-up at Carlisle in November (two in behind have won since) and will prove difficult to beat if stepping forward from that. Luccombe Chine could prove best of the rest.
The 2008 Coral Cup winner NAIAD DU MISSELOT appears to have been found a great opportunity to get his head back in front. Ferdy's Murphy's 11-year-old stayed on in eye-catching fashion to finish third over half-a-mile further at Wetherby last time and it's fair to say that he has less on his plate this afternoon. Priceless Art has clocked up six victories in NH Flat races and over hurdles and looks the only possible danger now sent chasing, while Jollygoodwelldone could beat Ballyday into third spot.
Hotgrove Boy has been knocking on the door and could go close again, while Frontier Boy clearly likes it here (won and placed in two visits) and will have plenty of supporters of his own. The vote, however, goes to TOTAL REBELLION. He evidently benefitted from the fitting on blinkers (worn again today) when scoring readily on his handicap debut over 2m4f at Ayr last time and improvement brought about by this step up in trip can help him defy a 9lb rise in the ratings.
A fair few in-and-out performers here and the key could be trying to catch one right. Pistol Basc comes out top on official ratings and has dropped back down to his last winning mark, but marginal preference is for four-time track scorer TOULOUSE EXPRESS. The 13-year-old has won off an 18lb higher mark than this in the past and his runner-up effort at Catterick last time has taken a boost with the third winning subsequently. Kinkeel looks worthy of a place on the shortlist after returning to form at Chepstow recently.
A chance is taken on ROYAL MILE representing the stable that won this race last year. Malcolm Denmark's gelding hasn't been at his best recently, but ran two fine races over C&D in November and looks capable of winning a race of this magnitude. Prior to a no-show over hurdles at Wetherby last time, Strathaird had been in cracking form in this sphere and is fancied to bounce back, while Arrow Barrow will be hoping to run a lot better than his only previous start over fences when pulled-up here in September.
It could pay to side with PUGNACITY in what looks a tricky puzzle for punters to solve. An eight-month break isn't too concerning as Diane Sayer's mare has run well when fresh in the past and three course wins show that she handles the ups and downs of this County Durham track. Granwood won comfortably when allowed to dictate from the head of affairs over C&D on her penultimate start and can go close if gifted a soft lead again, while Realignment and I Got Music complete the shortlist.
Naburn makes plenty of appeal making his racecourse debut for the stable that won this race in 2007 and 2008, but HOWABOUTNOW is fancied to put his experience to good use. Donald McCain's charge has displayed a fair level of ability in both NH starts thus far and the form of his debut success at Bangor was handed a boost on Tuesday with the runner-up, Bhakti, winning at Catterick. Brother Scott and Vuvuzela have also shaped with promise and add extra spice to what looks an above-average bumper.
This looks to be between Saga de Tercey and Anychancedave, with the latter preferred in receipt of 7 lb from his main rival.Timeform 1-2-3
Essentially a match between Naiad du Misselot and Priceless Art, with the former's chase experience tilting the balance his way.Timeform 1-2-3
Total Rebellion was transformed by blinkers last time, and he is selected to handle this step up in trip and win again. Frontier Boy and Matmata de Tendron can fill the places.Timeform 1-2-3
The majority of these have questions of some sort to answer, but a chance is taken on course-winner Toulouse Express who should go well if reproducing his latest second at Catterick. Jan Jandura and Pistol Basc are others to consider.Timeform 1-2-3
Authentic Act is well suited by these conditions and he could be the one to side with in a trappy event. Strathaird and Arrow Barrow are others to consider.Timeform 1-2-3
Granwood won on her handicap debut over C&D in December and, while not at her best next time, she may have found that coming too soon. She is one of the few in the race who are still open to improvement and can get the better of Realignment and Pugnacity.Timeform 1-2-3
Brother Scott wasn't discredited when second over C&D last time, but this looks a match between form-choice Howaboutnow and the well-connected newcomer Naburn, with the former preferred.Timeform 1-2-3
Barry is aboard Captain Conan in the Tingle Creek and Grandouet in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase - get his thoughts on both Grade 1 contenders plus his other rides over the weekend at Sandown and Punchestown.
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