Andy Holding has five selections for Saturday's racing.
Without wishing to labour the point for the umpteenth time, the Pertemps Final was just about the best handicap hurdle form of last season and having finished an honourable third to major Stayers Hurdle contender, Sire Du Berlais, TOUT EST PERMIS (best price 7-1) should be capable of mixing it back in this discipline having had a brief and successful flirtation over fences.
Arriving here following a cracking effort in a Grade 1 over the larger obstacles at Down Royal, it’s worth pointing out Noel Meade’s gelding is still on a pretty attractive mark compared to his chase one, not to mention he also has fitness on his side. Although agonisingly beaten in this race last year, time has told us he probably faced an impossible task trying to go toe-to-toe with The Jam Man, but with subsequent Pertemps hero and old rival Sire Du Berlais back in fourth, the overall form and standard of the race at the Co Meath venue suggests he wouldn’t have to do too much different on his return visit to be a major factor once more.
WALK IN THE MILL (best price 5-1) has a serious affinity for today’s unique fences and having made a more than satisfactory start to his campaign at Ascot last time out, a repeat win in this race appears a distinct possibility.
Winner of this race for the last two seasons plus a gallant fourth in the Grand National rubber-stamp Robert Walford’s gelding as a proper course specialist and he looks to have been trained specically with this race in mind again. Using the valuable Sodexo Gold Cup 35 days ago as a trial, the son of Walk In The Park ran a good deal better than he did on his opening gambit the previous season and with that run bound to have brought him on to just about fever-pitch, another bold show looks on the card under ideal conditions.
STAINSBY GIRL (best price 10-3) took a massive scalp in the shape of the 133-rated Rayna’s World at Hexham last time out and this rapidly-improving mare can make an impact on her first attempt in handicap company.
Unplaced only once in a nine-race career – and that came in a Grade 2 bumper – Donald Whillans’ mare has looked really good on her last two starts over hurdles and with the latest of those two performances coming in a fast speed figure, it’s clear she is progressing with each and every start. Setting out to make it a proper test at the Northumberland venue, the daughter of Shirocco eventually broke the heart of the long odds-on favourite and with similar tactics likely to be the order of the day once again, she could prove a hard nut to crack under the prevailing conditions.
EGLANTINE DU SEUIL (best price 9-1) shaped nicely on her first start since leaving Willie Mullins and this previous Grade 2 scorer still retains enough quality to be a force in a race of this nature.
Winner of the Mares’ Novices Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham festival, the daughter of Saddler Maker hasn’t managed to add to that success since, but as she’s been largely campaigned over a trip she seemingly struggles to see out, it’s little wonder she’s drawn a blank. On the plus side, her best effort in between times came when she was a creditable fourth in ultra-competitive Ladbroke Hurdle over two miles at Leopardstown’s two-day February festival last season and given the way she shaped at the West Country venue 28 days ago, that emotion is very much seconded.
INIGO JONES (best price 2-1) shaped with a huge amount of promise in a warm maiden on debut at Kempton and he’s fancied to find the necessary improvement to make a bigger impact in tonight’s similar contest.
Slowly into stride at the Sunbury venue, Sir Michael Stoute’s colt found himself last as the field turned for home and although he never looked like making up the thick end of 15 lengths, he did manage to erode a large portion of the deficit down by the line. Likely to be a totally different proposition this evening, especially over tonight’s extra trip, the son of New Approach can provide Emperor Spirit with plenty to think about.