There are some testing races for punters on Town Moor this afternoon, non more so than this handicap. In the hope GEORGE BOWEN (Best price 8-1) appreciates the return to seven furlongs on fast ground he narrowly gains the nod over usual suspects Hillbilly Boy, Bertiewhittle and Withernsea. The selection caught the eye keeping on well at the south Yorkshire venue last time behind Muntadab despite not gaining the clearest of passages that day. He has looked tapped for toe on occasions over six furlongs this season, admittedly in some well-contested handicap, so I’m hopeful today’s trip can see him return to winning ways.£10 Free Credit and a £500 Deposit Bonus
I don’t always put a lot of store in official ratings, especially when it comes to end of season form but it is difficult to deny the claims of GROWL (Best price 7-4) now he returns to Listed company. While there was an element of fluke in his 50-1 second to The Tin Man on British Champions Day, the performance is still head and shoulders above anything his rivals have managed and it proved Richard Fahey’s speedster doesn’t require a big-field handicap to deliver his best efforts. This will be the selection’s 11th run of the season which is a slight concern, especially as he has been on the go since April, however he remains the one to beat. If there is to be a mini shock then Perfect Pasture could be the one to provide it as he ran well on fast ground at Nottingham during the week and looks a threat returned to six furlongs today.
Three-year-old have enjoyed a good record in this event in recent seasons and the likes of DUBAI FASHION (Best price 8-1), Entsar and Aljazzi could give their elders something to think about. The switch back to turf could suit Dubai Fashion who was just worried out if it at Newcastle by Palisade last time despite travelling into the race beautifully. A flat track and the prospect of a genuine pace should suit the Godolphin representative who is narrowly preferred to emphatic Newbury scorer Entsar.
John Gosden has made a habit of targeting the November Handicap with lightly-raced and unexposed stayers and CAPE COVA (Best price 13-2) looks the latest cab off the rank. The Cape Cross colt looks to have his own mind which is possibly why the blinkers have been applied for the first time today, but there is no doubting he possesses both an engine and terrific ability and it was those abilities which rescued what looked a seemingly impossible position at today’s venue last time. His propensity to run in snatches again threatened to derail a promising opportunity for Gosden’s charge until he picked up the bridle in the straight to produce an irresistible challenge and overhaul Higher Power. He drops back a couple of furlongs today but I’m hoping the headgear concentrates his mind and he can race with a little more verve.
There was no denying the class displayed by Sceau Royal at Cheltenham on his reappearance and Alan King’s charge will be a short price to endorse the view he is an improved hurdler this term. An 11-length victory was achieved in impressive fashion and it will take a good one to lower Sceau Royal’s colours if he arrives in the west country in the same form today. That said, this race represents a different test and ZUBAYR (Best price 4-1) is a horse that has always been well regarded by the Paul Nicholls camp and conditions should be just about perfect for him to go close. A debut win in the UK at Kempton last February preceded a subdued Triumph Hurdle performance, but that race came too soon and the selection is better judged on a fine Auteuil display when third to Footpad in a valuable hurdle. Zubayr has arguably achieved as much as North Hill Harvey yet is a bigger price and worth backing for that reason alone.
SOUTHFIELD THEATRE (Best price 7-2) has won three of his four starts at Wincanton and could be one to catch first time up. His stable have a strong hand here with recent course winner Present Man also holding excellent claims, but Southfield Theatre boasted the class to chase home Don Poli in the RSA Chase as a novice and makes plenty of appeal from his slipping mark. Connections have reportedly tinkered with his training regime since the eight-year-old returned from a summer at grass and he has at last begun to show the benefit at Ditcheat this autumn.
An interesting race of its type with Un Temps Pour Tout and Vyta Du Roc entered in the Hennessy Gold Cup which may prove their main early-season aim. With that in mind, it is worth recalling the only horse to have beaten ZARKANDAR (Best price 5-2) following an absence of at least five months is Annie Power so it will be fascinating to see how the nine-year-old copes with a spell off the track. Sadly sidelined by an injury sustained behind Un Temps Pour Tout in the French Champion Hurdle, Zarkandar could easily find a race-fit Mister Miyagi too strong after the last, but he is reported to have done plenty of steady work and remains the class horse in the field.
Orbasa is a horse to keep on side this term but, in the hope he is vulnerable first time out, SPLASH OF GINGE (Best price 5-1) gains the vote each-way to lift a race his stable have landed in recent seasons. Placed in a Grade 1 Hurdle at today’s venue, the eight-year-old should have benefited from his comeback run at Chepstow in a handicap chase which is already working out well. The fifth, Irish Cavalier, has won since at Wetherby and Splash Of Ginge is given the nod over Thomas Brown with Some Buckle overlooked as he has looked a weak finisher in the past.
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