Architect Tips has six selections for today's racing, with four tips running at Kelso and a selection in the John Durkan at Punchestown.
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Breaking The Ice did it well to make it four from his last six last time here but the Lucinda Russell-trained BEHINDTHELINES (best price 9-1), who was returning from a fair absence off top-weight, was only beaten five-lengths into fourth and is weight to finish a lot closer so can reverse the form on today’s better terms.
This lightly-raced nine-year-old demonstrated some pretty useful form over hurdles, in which he placed in three of his four starts and actually won the other impressively. That victory over the 127-rated Piri Massini certainly indicates that his mark of 116 is exploitable and the form of his third behind Iwilldoit received a significant boost when the winner returned a good winner of the Welsh National trial yesterday. He was last seen running a blinder on the back of a fair absence when fourth over track and trip last time off top-weight and, with that run under his belt, he should go very well here.
The Lilburn Estate Scottish Borders National Handicap Chase looks a good race to tackle from an each-way point of view and I like a couple of participants in the shape of INNISFREE LAD (best price 16-1) and CHIDSWELL (best price 11-1) with four places on offer.
The former, trained by David Dennis, was revitalised last season, where he won five times. He won a class-two event at Haydock and was beaten just a neck up at Carlisle on heavy ground over three-miles, two-furlongs by Highland Hunter, who advertised the form by claiming yesterday’s London National at Sandown. He looked as though he would appreciate this stiffer test of stamina, especially when he got going far too late in the 60th Badger Beer Handicap Chase, finishing sixth. The first-time cheekpieces should give him a bit of a boost and, with Brian Hughes doing the steering, he makes plenty of each-way appeal.
Nicky Richards’ twelve-year-old isn’t the force of old but he won’t lack for stamina and he proved that he stays four-miles when a creditable sixth in the Scottish National in April. It’s interesting to see that most of his best RPR’s have been at this venue so he clearly likes it here and he’ll be competing from a career-low mark here, too. He’s five-pound lower than his sixth in the Scottish National and warmed up for this with a fifth place finish at Carlisle over an inadequate trip on his reappearance last month. His form figures at this track reads an impressive 32123, so knowing that he has reserved his best performances for this track and this sort of ground, this veteran might be underrated at double-figure digits.
Vee Dancer has been backed as if defeat is out of the question but Dr Richard Newlands’ DYNAMITE KENTUCKY (best price 16-1) has been shaping a lot better than the beaten margins have indicated of late and should go well at a huge price with Cillin Leonard claiming a valuable three-pounds.
The six-year-old offered promise in three bumpers, which included a victory at Hexham, and ran well to finish second on hurdles debut back in May. He could only manage sixth next time when strongly supported but wasn’t disgraced when fourth in a hot maiden hurdle at Chepstow last time and has the potential to improve for this longer trip off an attractive-looking mark on handicap debut. He’s certainly worth a crack at this distance with more to come and, if that’s the case, a few pounds’ improvement might bring him into the reckoning, each-way, here.
Daryl Jacob makes the long journey up to Kelso for one ride in the Paris Pike Novices' Limited Handicap Chase in the shape of TORIGNI (best price 7-2) for trainer Harry Whittington, who has an excellent chance at the weights.
The five-year-old was actually the clear highest rated of these over hurdles (135 in comparison to Doyen Breed rated 125) and although he failed to make a winning chase debut, he shaped really well to finish third, when you consider the fact that he lost a shoe at the halfway stage. The first-time headgear and longer trip should unlock further improvement, while the forecast soft ground won’t be inconceivable, either. His three placed efforts on soft ground last season is some seriously strong form when put in the context of this assignment and he should be a major player here.
The feature race in Ireland, the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, has attracted a stellar field, including Willie Mullins’ seven runners with the vote going to ASTERION FORLONGE (best price 15-2) to make an impact on his return to the highest level.
This seven-year-old goes well fresh and has the assistance of Bryan Cooper, who was onboard when his mount produced a career-best when winning the competitive fifteen runner handicap chase at this course last-time-out. His jumping had previously let him down at this level but he was pretty spectacular last time under this rider and this course clearly plays to his strengths. The conditions will be in his favour, too, and given how highly-regarded he is by Willie Mullins’ who has often expressed that we haven’t seen the best of him, this high-class chaser should make a very bold bid on his return to action.