Steve Ryder has six selections for today's racing including a NAP at Wetherby.
The well-bred SHIROCCO'S DREAM (best priced at 9/2) cost £260,000 at the Sales last year following an Irish PTP win but failed to live up to market expectations on her two runs last season. Like many of the yard’s horses, she put in a career-best performance on her reappearance this season when she won a mares’ novice hurdle at Exeter by ¾ length in November.
Shirocco’s Dream needed every yard of the 2m2f trip that day so this step up to just shy of 2m4f for her handicap debut looks perfect. She has the benefit of a recent run over the favourite Fable who is 3-4 in her career so far but a mark of 111 should underestimate Shirocco’s Dream in a first-time tongue-tie.
This looks a strong renewal of the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase but preference goes to the Alan King trained EDWARDSTONE (best priced at 3/1) who was the best of these over hurdles and won over fences last time. As a seven-year-old, the trends are against him but with the favourite Third Time Lucki in the field, this should be run at a fast pace which will be perfect for Edwardstone.
Edwardstone has a rating of 150 over hurdles courtesy of good performances in defeat at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals in comparison his main rivals who are rated 143 or lower. He failed to complete on his first two attempts over fences but he was brought down in one of those and I thought he jumped well at Warwick which is a good jumping test for novices. Tom Cannon gets on well with him and I expect him to pounce late to win this Grade 1.
With the likes of Protektorat, Imperial Aura and Simply The Betts all having question marks about the 3m1f trip on soft ground, I expect NATIVE RIVER (best priced at 3/1) to win this race for a second time. The eleven-year-old won this race in 2019 before finishing a close 3rd when the Colin Tizzard stable were out of form. He has form figures of 13111131 over fences on ground soft or worse and also has a good record at Aintree with a Grade 1 Novice Chase win in 2016.
Jonjo O’Neill Jr will no doubt set out to make this a proper test of stamina on this ground and I expect him to make all in this race.
I find form over the Grand National fences important in the Becher Chase and CHRIS'S DREAM (best priced at 9/1) has that courtesy of a good jumping performance in the April highlight last year. The nine-year-old was still in contention when unseating his rider at the fourth last fence in the Grand National but had jumped really well up until that point.
Chris’s Dream has a great record when fresh so I am thrilled they have targeted this as his first run of the season rather than in the Ladbrokes Trophy last weekend where he held an entry until the declaration stage. The handicapper has dropped him a couple of pounds down to a mark of 162 for this race and it is worth remembering that he was only beaten a neck by The Storyteller in the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal on his reappearance last season. Connections have booked Jonjo O’Neill Jr for the ride and I think he has a great chance off top weight with seven places on offer.
GERYVILLE (best priced at 5/1) defied a starting price of 40/1 to win on his stable debut here last time and in truth it was a result that never looked in doubt. The five-year-old joined Micky Hammond from France and he made a mockery of his opening handicap mark of 109 to win by a widening 12 lengths at the finish.
The handicapper has raised the Geryville 10lb for that victory which actually seems slightly generous and this step up to 3 miles should also suit him well based on that performance. He actually drops in class in this race from a Class 3 0-125 handicap into a Class 4 0-120 handicap and I expect him to make it 2/2 for new connections.
Last year’s winner Benson deserves huge respect in this race but he is now short enough in the market and I am willing to take a chance on NAVAJO PASS (best priced at 18/1) on his reappearance. I think it is interesting that Donald McCain has opted for this race as a reappearance for Navajo Pass who drops back down into handicap company for the first time since as impressive 9 ½ length victory at Musselburgh in January. He went on to win the Grade 2 “The New One” Hurdle at Haydock beating Buveur D’Air and Ballyandy before finishing 3rd behind Goshen in the Kingwell Hurdle in February.
Connections have given Navajo Pass a wind operation since that run and he should outrun his odds for the in-form Donald McCain yard despite carrying top weight off a mark of 149.