Andy Holding has picks at Doncaster & Cheltenham as well as a strong fancy at Wolverhampton.
MOULIN A VENT (best price 7-4) proved a bitter disappointment on his first start over fences, but it was good to see him put that initial run behind him and return to a level more associated with his profile at Navan last time out. In race run at a proper gallop at the Co Kildare venue, Noel Meade’s inmate just didn’t have enough natural speed to cope with the likes of Invitation Only and Any Second Now, but given the front pair were trapping along at a pace which allowed them to run a final last circuit six seconds faster than the 2m novice won by the classy Tombstone, he’s actually done really well to only get beaten 10 lengths in the circumstances. Stepping up in trip today, hopefully the likely slower pace today will help him get into a nice jumping rhythm and hailing from a stable that took this race twelve months ago with stout stayer A Genie In Abottle, it would come as no surprise to see the son of Sagamix go down a similar route and end up as a genuine 4m National Hunt Chase contender in March.
MARKOV (best price 2-1) clocked an impressive set of numbers on his first attempt over fences at Fontwell last time out and he’s fancied to supplement those gains off a revised mark that still allows him to run in this sort of grade. Although only a small field at the Sussex venue, the pace was strong courtesy of the gallop set by Robin Of Locksley and seemingly relishing the examination paper set that afternoon, Ben Pauling’s inmate proved a willing advisory in the latter stages. Both Lithic and Walt have since gone on to advertise the form and having run well on his two previous visits to Town Moor over hurdles, there’s every reason to feel upbeat about his chance.
IRISH ROE (best price 9-2) left the impression she won with more in hand that the official winning margin suggested over today’s C&D last time out and there appears no real reason to oppose the Vinnie Roe mare on her return to Town Moor. In hindsight, Peter Atkinson’s probably hit the front too soon such was the way she travelled into the contest and even though it momentarily looked like her old rival, William Of Orange, was staging something of a revival jumping the last, she only had to be shaken up late on to reassert her superiority. Good enough to win a listed bumper a year ago, she still has the look of a well-handicapped horse even off her new mark of 128 and with all her best form coming on a flat, left-handed track on decent ground, everything looks in her favour to run another huge race.
MOLLY CHILDERS (best price 11-1) looks another steady improver from the Stuart Edmonds stable and having won with plenty in hand at Market Rasen last time out, she looks ready for a step up in class. Thought good enough to run against listed opposition at Sandown last season, the daughter of Stowaway really came of age at the Lincolnshire venue 23 days ago when stepped up significantly in trip and given that she comes from a point-to-point background, today’s test over this stiff track should turn out to be ideal.
Having bit the dust three times in her last four starts over fences, connections of SAINTE LADYLIME (best price 28-1) are probably justified in their decision to draw stumps on that particular discipline for the time being, but let’s not forget she a useful hurdler in her own right and she can easily outrun her odds on her return to the smaller obstacles. A convincing winner at Uttoxeter over fences two starts ago, she stayed on gamely that day to record a decent speed figure and with Ms Parfois, going on to advertise the worth of the form here yesterday, Kim Bailey’s charge is clearly a useful operator on her day. Indeed, her best piece of form over hurdles arguably came when she was a creditable third to Katie Too in a listed contest over today’s C&D last April and a repeat of that level of performance entitles her to more respect than her morning odds imply.
MAIFALKI (NAP) (best price 6-1) ran a tremendous race over a distance which clearly tested his stamina here last time out (1m 4f), but now dropping back to a more favourable trip, he’s fancied to perform better than his position in the market suggests. On just his second outing for new connections, Jason Ward’s inmate raced with plenty of exuberance through the early stages and then having kicked clear and having looked the most likely winner rounding the home turn, the four-year-old understandably fainted inside the final furlong. He did, however, keep on bravely enough to finish a creditable fourth to the eventual winner, Island Brave, who continues on an upward curve, and with the fifth horse home, Take Two, paying a handsome complement to the form at Lingfield on Wednesday, there’s a decent chance he can follow suit. Moreover, the son of Falco is 2-2 over tonight’s C&D and if he can just get a nice lead into the contest rather than be forced to row his own boat, it’s hard to see the four-year-old not playing a significant role in the finish.