The opener at Prestbury Park is an interesting heat for a number of reasons, not least whether or not a resurgent Tim Vaughan can end a Cheltenham hoodoo which stretches back an incredible 140 runners. Bucking The Trend, the beneficiary of a summer breathing operation, would arguably be the most appropriate winner of the year if he can get the job done in the curtain raiser and there seems no reason why he shouldn’t run a massive race on the back of an excellent performance at Uttoxeter over hurdles. However, he is reluctantly overlooked in preference for HENRYVILLE (Best price 15-2) who has run well twice over hurdles here and could be the answer to a tricky event. The selection doesn’t always find what is expected off the bridle, but has run well twice with the hood and tongue tie applied and should appreciate a patient ride and a step up in trip today.£10 Free Credit and a £500 Deposit Bonus
SCEAU ROYAL (Best price 11-2), Adrien Du Pont and Leoncavallo resume hostilities in an intriguing heat which also features Gibralfaro, a fine third at Chepstow on his return. The selection was a length too strong for Adrien Du Pont on their running here last December when Leoncavallo was still challenging before unseating his rider Aidan Coleman at the last. I’m not convinced there should be as much disparity in the morning prices as there is, especially as Sceau Royal also beat Adrien Du Pont at Chepstow in October before being disqualified and is 4lb better off today.
Neil Mullholland harbours hopes that FOX NORTON (Best price 9-2) could end up in the Champion Chase in March so he has to be competitive in a handicap here for those hopes to be realised. The selection was well beaten in the Arkle by Douvan, but was far from disgraced in suffering an 11-length defeat that day and the likelihood of a strong pace here courtesy of last year’s winner Boondooma and stablemate Minella Definitely is likely to play to his strengths. A recent dry spell should ensure there are no excuses ground wise and Mullholland boasts a good record prepping handicap chasers for races of this nature.
There is always a danger that connections will see March as the bigger prize with a race of this nature but, in the hope that Charles Byrnes wants to complete the job with TOP OF THE TOWN (Best price 13-2) before handing the eight-year-old a winter break, the Irish raider is fancied to make his mark on today’s event. Byrnes will have winced when his gelding was raised 19lb by the Irish assessor for his facile Bellewstown win last time but that looks understandable given the form has worked out well and he ran out such an emphatic winner. His mark of 128 wouldn’t be enough to see him take a place in the final of this series in March so victory here would see him take the necessary climb in the handicap. Rather than back the selection each-way, risk a saver GOLDEN DOYEN (Best price 8-1) who ran well on the level at Ascot last time and looks like he has been crying out for this trip.
The fancy prices about COMEDY SCHOOL (Best priced 7-2) have disappeared, but the daughter of Distorted Humor still makes plenty of appeal. The selection posted a sparkling display to rout a decent field at York earlier this month and looks ready to step into Listed company. Although raised 10lb for the emphatic victory, a rating of 88 still leaves her with something to find on the book however she is improving at a rapid rate and can see off Hilario and Timeless Flight.
With five places on offer in the village, it could be worth having a couple of modest stabs at the five furlong handicap. Although consistency has never been the main attribute of ROBOT BOY (Best price 11-1) he appreciated the drop into Class 3 company at York to see off Kibaar, Bogart (4th) and Shipyard (5th) last time. The selection moved to the lead with ease that day before looking to hang around in front and there could be more to come off his revised mark.
In-form veterans CONFESSIONAL (Best price 16-1), an excellent second in a warm Catterick sprint last week, Mirza and Humidor (1st and 3rd at Leicester) all make appeal in an open race with narrow preference for the former who looks nicely drawn in seven.
Three-year-olds have dominated the recent renewals of this event so UAE PRINCE (Best price 7-4), Huge Future and To Be Wild all catch the eye given their progressive profiles. The former was talked of as a possible Derby horse early in the season but a setback halted those plans, causing him to spend most of the turf season on the sidelines. However, an emphatic Leicester victory last month served notice he could be ready to make up for lost time and he is taken to continue his upwardly mobile progression. Ffos Las winner To Be Wild coped with easy ground on his comeback and is hugely respected.
The wheels may have come off Capri, but Aidan O’Brien looks to have an able replacement for today’s Racing Post Trophy in YUCATAN (Best price 5-4). Unsurprisingly given the betting patterns and, despite being an intended runner, Capri wasn’t declared on Thursday, leaving Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore to team up with the son of Galileo on Town Moor. A good ground maiden win at the Curragh preceded a tilt at the Beresford Stakes last time, but heavy ground didn’t look the ideal surface for the selection who still dug deep to take the runners-up berth behind Capri. Hopefully, the chance to tackle some decent ground will induce further improvement from Yucatan and he can account for Rivet who looks a chief danger given his predilection for a flat track.
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