ART OF PAYROLL (NAP) (best price 6-4) proved an instant hit for new connections at Southwell last time out and the speed figure he posted that day suggests he’s going to be very hard to beat again if in the same mood. In a race run at a proper end-to-end gallop at the Midland venue, Harry Fry’s inmate proved too strong for Hammersly Lake in the closing stages and with that horse going on to record a facile success at Perth two days ago, the solid form is there for all to see. Although most of his best form – including that day – is on good ground, he has plenty of solid efforts next to his name on soft from his days in Ireland, so if the forecast showers do materialise, they are unlikely to impact on his chances more than others.
Richard Hannon appears to have a fairly strong and in this nursery and both RUM RUNNER (best price 5-1) and TOOMER (best price 12-1) are worth a small involvement against the field. The former, who’d shown promise on his first two starts, got off the mark at the third time of asking at Sandown last time out and he did it in the style of a horse who could go onto much better things. In a race run at a sound clip throughout, the son of Havana Gold stayed on strongly in the closing stages to win in tidy fashion and with plenty of highly-regarded sorts in behind (most notably Emaraaty) the form looks solid. The latter has yet to get off the mark in four attempts, but she showed last time out at Goodwood that there races to be won with her now she appears to be getting the hang of the game. Nibbled at in the market prior to nursery debut at the Sussex track, the daughter of Iffraaj just couldn’t quite match the speed of Neola and Co over that sharp six furlongs, but she came home nicely enough to suggest 7f with give underfoot would bring about further improvement and she’s worth a small interest to find out whether that theory works out here this afternoon.
Amazingly, given all the rain around at the moment, the going was good, good-to-firm in places at the Midland venue at time of writing and that should allow CAMAKASI (best price 4-1) to run up to a reasonably level on his return to the winter game after a fruitful period on the Flat. Better known for his exploits on the all-weather over the years, Ali Stronge’s inmate finally got off the mark at the 15th attempt on turf last time out at Bath and given the way he won, it beggars belief how on earth he hadn’t managed to do so in the past. Skipping merrily away to score by eight lengths, the son of Camacho was not only noted for his useful overall speed figure that day, but his final closing sectionals were in-line with the two five furlong sprints run on the same card. Up to now, the six-year-old has a pretty poor record over hurdles, but hopefully his current form will help him reinvent himself here this afternoon providing the showers keep away.
The race may have lost some of its lustre without the presence of Coneygree in the field, but in his absence, it now has a more wide-open feel to it and with many of the runners having locked horns with each other in the Galway Plate, the famous contest at Ballybrit might provide the answer to this ultra-difficult puzzle. The form book says Slowmotion and A Toi Phil should come out top from that top-class encounter, but back in the field that day, ABRE DE VIE (best price 6-1) ran pretty well given how the race developed and he may be capable for turning the form around on his old rivals under today’s prevailing conditions. Held up put that back 42 days ago, Willie Mullins’ charge could never really muster a telling blow at the leaders that day, but he stayed on well enough to suggest a stiffer test of stamina might bear fruit further down the line. Indeed, we didn’t have to wait too long before that viewpoint rang true as the son of Antarctique was a totally different proposition on softer ground when returning to the scene of that fine effort four days later. Moving much sweeter throughout, the seven-year-old lowered the colours of stable mate, Shaneshill, who’d finished ahead of him on their previous encounter and that performance adds fuel to the fire that could be a potent force when presented with a proper examination under testing conditions. Sure to be run at a fast pace this afternoon with the likes of Kylecrue, Kilcarry Castle and Sir Jack Yeats all wanting a slice of the early pie, this should play into the hands of the closers in the final circuit and Arbe De Vie appeals as one of the most likely to playing his cards late on.