Cheltenham Festival Race Previews, Friday 13/03/2020

Friday March 13th

Cheltenham 1.30
JCB Triumph Hurdle 4-y-o Class 1 Grade 1
2m179y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 13 runners

Paul Nicholls has got this, and it looks a question of which one – either Sir Psycho*, who had to work for it but decisively beat the useful French-trained rival Rockadenn in the Victor Ludorum at Haydock, or Solo*, who announced himself on the British racing scene with an authoritative success in the Adonis at Kempton. Before Goshen won unchallenged at Ascot he wandered before one hurdle around halfway, eventually stretching clear of Nordano, and I’m not sure he’s entirely straightforward, and preference is for Allmankind, the Finale Hurdle winner, who had Nordano further back when winning at Chepstow over Christmas. Best of the Irish contingent is Burning Victory, who took the Grade 3 Winning Fair Juvenile at Fairyhouse on February 22nd, followed by A Wave Of The Sea, who took advantage of the Grade 1 juvenile at Leopardstown in February coming down to stamina, staying on late as Cerberus curled up on the run-in having been left clear, himself left in that position when the front-running Aspire Tower fell at the last, the latter likely to have finished 2nd had he stood up – he’s the pace angle here, but A Wave Of The Sea is the most likely to be picking up any pieces late in the day.

Shortlist: Sir Psycho, Solo

Cheltenham 2.10
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
2m179y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 24 runners

No fine tooth comb here as, simplifying a race that shouldn’t be simplified, the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury holds the key – it’s just open to question whether or not the key fits the door. Ciel De Neige* led at the last, wandered when the jockey pulled his whip through and was headed by Pic D’Orhy 175 yards out, so his claims are obvious, but three who finished behind him were doing their best work at the end and the Cheltenham hill might work in their favour as they stay on to pick up the pieces – the fourth Sir Valentine*, who might well have won if there’d been another furlong such was the way he was staying on; the sixth Zanza, who stayed on after a mistake at the last; and the eighth Stolen Silver, who stayed on from the midfield and passed several beaten ones. Apart from them one who’ll definitely be boxing on at the end is Embittered*, who met some trouble in running approaching the last at Leopardstown last time, squeezed on both sides and forced to drop back a little – I think there’ll be a good run from him.

Shortlist: Ciel De Neige, Sir Valentine, Embittered

Cheltenham 2.50
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle Class 1 Grade 1
2m7f213y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 19 runners

The Grade 1 novice over 2m6f at Leopardstown is the first place to look here, Latest Exhibition* staying on to beat Cobbler’s Way, with Fury Road* in fourth; the third Longhouse Poet didn’t back it up in the Ballymore on Wednesday but the fifth Elixir D’Ainay was running a big race until barged and falling two out in the Supreme on Tuesday – Fury Road was favourite at Leopardstown and perhaps a little disappointing, but had won at Limerick over 2m7f in a Grade 2 novice the time before. Janidil hasn’t much, if any, ground to make up on my highest rated – indeed officially he’s 149, 3 lbs shy of the highest in the field on BHA ratings – but he’s up a mile in trip, and hardly suggested that he needed the step up when beating Buildmeupbuttercup at Fairyhouse in a good handicap in December. The highest on official ratings is Monkfish, 152, but he’s yet to be seriously tested, and I only have him on 116 after beating Alpine Cobra by 20 lengths at Thurles on January 19th.

As for the home team, I’m a bit surprised to see Harry Senior running in this – it was a steadily-run race over 2m4f on the Festival Trials-card and he won it with a change of pace from the last, leaving King Roland behind; he was the pick of the paddock by a mile, a fine chasing type, and he should get this far on pedigree, but if he were mine I’d have considered running him in the Supreme after that run. Connections’ decision to send Ramses De Teillee* over hurdles has been rewarded with Grade 2-wins at Doncaster, always in the first two and staying on strongly from the last, and at Haydock in attritional conditions. so he could do well here. The unbeaten Thyme Hill has impressed all season, taking the Challow at Newbury last time, but I’m not sure about him over this longer trip – his dam Rosita Bay didn’t stay further than around 2m4f. On that basis I prefer the horse he beat in the Challow, The Cashel Man, who stays well on the Flat and is two from three over hurdles since wearing blinkers.

Shortlist: Latest Exhibition, Fury Road, Ramses De Teillee

Cheltenham 3.30
Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Class 1 Grade 1
3m2f70y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 12 runners

Al Boum Photo*
Last year’s Gold Cup winner, midfield 6th, mistakes 13th and 16th, closer order 17th, further ground and tracked 1st 2 18th, looked poised tracking 1st 2 passing omitted 3 out, drew upsides going best approaching 2 out, shaken up and sent on nearing it, ridden, stayed on between last 2, was 4 lengths up last, driven out, stayed on well up the hill to beat Anibale Fly. Why change what works – he’s had the same build-up, and once again took the Listed Chase at Tramore on New Year’s Day, travelled comfortably throughout, disputed lead 5 out, definite lead 4 out, ridden into 3 out, moved best bend before 2 out, pushed along after it, ran on to draw further clear by last, readily with a bit in hand from Acapella Bourgeois. Likely to go well
Bristol De Mai 
Was 3rd here last year, good ground going comfortably passing omitted 3 out, tracked leaders when pushed along approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, kept on one pace approaching last, no extra under pressure up the hill, lost 2nd inside last 175 yards. Ran arguably his best run at Cheltenham when 2nd to Santini in Cotswold Chase, looked well (on toes), pressed on 12th, was joined by Santini 16th, hit 3 out and headed, pushed along, rallied and closed on Santini approaching 2 out, upsides jumping, led narrowly approaching last, 1st 2 pulled clear, headed early on run-in, ridden, no extra up the hill. Likely to be a sitting duck
Chris’s Dream 
After  seasonal debut-win in Troytown at Navan, followed up in Red Mills Chase at Gowran Park, made all, jumped right, clear much of the way. ridden home turn, about 2 lengths up 2 out, hard driven, stayed on under pressure, about the same in front when mistake last, driven out, all out, stayed on well enough last 150 yards. Didn’t look to have much left at the end in attritional conditions as he held on from Shattered Love. In the months of March and April his record is 00050
Clan Des Obeaux
In last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup was 5th to Al Boum Photo, tracked leaders 15th, pushed along after 16th and 17th, held place, 2 lengths down and pushed along after 19th, had a chance passing omitted 3 out, closed up travelling better approaching home turn, pushed along turning in, one pace nearing 2 out, hard driven, stuck to task but no impression approaching last. As last year comes here on the back of a win in the King George at Kempton, moved best when produced to challenge Cyrname home turn, slight lead 3 out, the better jump and asserted 2 out, ridden well clear, some 20 lengths up last, pushed right out. That King George had nothing about it and it’s unlikely that he’ll improve on last year
Delta Work*
Probably needed reappearance at Down Royal and won the notable double of the Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas, 3 lengths down in 5th jumping, hard driven, strong effort 175 yards out and closed on them, stayed on well close home, all out but led narrowly 100 yards out, just held on from Monalee, and the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, got a split on inner and stayed on under a push approaching last, effort and led when in close to it, hard driven, stayed on, all out but always holding on from Kemboy. Tough, genuine and does the right things – genuine contender
Elegant Escape
In last year’s Gold Cup was 26 lengths 6th to Al Boum Photo, unable to lie up in the final mile. Blinkers removed after disappointing runs the last twice, taking next to no interest.  Likely to be traipsing round at the back
Hard-luck story in last year’s Gold Cup, unseating 1st, but gaining lucrative compensation when making all in the Bowl at Aintree and the Punchestown Gold Cup, was joined by Al Boum Photo 3 out, pair pulled clear, mistake 2 out, hard ridden, found more, led 3 lengths last, driven out. Ran well in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown but came away with a question mark over him, mistake 12th (banked fence), went right 13th and bumped rival, chased leader when in close to 14th, moved comfortably enough when led 2 out, pushed along home turn, headed approaching last, rallied and chased Delta Work over last, put under strong pressure, stayed on, one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. That was up there with what the average Gold Cup contender needs to have under their belt when going to Cheltenham, but it’s hard to pretend that the style marks are anything like those of his Aintree and Punchestown wins of last season, mistakes in the mix. Still done enough to be a contender
Progressing top-class chaser posted his best to date when beating Bristol De Mai in his own back yard – the Betfair Chase at Haydock, still last turning out of back straight but travelled comfortably, readily closed on Bristol De Mai and travelled much the best from 3 out to next, shaken up from 2 out, didn’t put it to bed immediately, staying on and upsides when brushed last, asserted run-in and went a length up, driven out, all out. Blew out in the King George at Kempton when last seen, little errors,  firmly pushed along in last approaching 12th, had made a place when mistake 13th, effort 14th, disputed 2nd when ridden into and reached for 4 out, ridden and lost place after, weakening home turn, pulled up before 3 out. Not now sure what to expect and the Tizzard stable isn’t in the best of form this week
Was 4th in last year’s Ryanair Chase, every chance home turn, ridden along approaching 2 out, mistake there, hard driven between last 2, one pace approaching last, hard driven up the hill and no impression – has also been runner-up in the Albert Bartlett in the past. Top-class chaser, best to date over 3m – connections persisting with this trip it seems – when a head 2nd to Delta Work in Savills Chase at Leopardstown, led, rest had closed up 2 out, niggled along, more firmly ridden home turn, stayed on in narrow lead, sustained effort, found extra after last and went up to 2 lengths ahead, hard driven, stayed on in front, was closed on last 175 yards, headed narrowly 100 yards out and rider lost her irons, hard driven, didn’t flinch but just held. I wasn’t expecting that, he really pulled it out and didn’t let Delta Work just go by. Hopes that this one will give Rachael Blackmore a Cheltenham Gold Cup win are realistic
Presenting Percy*
In last year’s Gold Cup was a tailed-off 8th to Al Boum Photo, mistake 18th and niggled along in midfield, ridden 19th, stayed on under a ride and rear of leading group approaching home turn but there were a few going better, put under pressure turning in and unable to go with those ahead. Was 4 lengths 5th to Delta Work in Savills Chase at Leopardstown, effort after last and stayed on well to briefly hold a chance, no extra when the winner went on: shaped better when 3rd to Delta Work in Irish Gold Cup in February, good quick ground on the bit after 3 out, chased leader approaching 2 out, drew upsides approaching home turn, niggled along, soon more firmly ridden, stayed on, led off the bend, headed approaching last, faded to 3rd, hard driven, hung left and wandered, well held run-in, kept on last 100 yards. It’s been a while since this one was doing performances like that over fences, but the conclusion here is that he hit the front too soon and emptied after the last – his chance will depend on how late the jockey can hold on to him, ideally until at least just after the last
Real Steel
Won Grade 2 over 2m4f at Thurles in January,  tracked 1st 2 from 5th, chased Footpad when in close to 3 out (normally 4 out), niggled along and led passing omitted 3 out, upsides 2 out, hard riden, 1st 2 clear, stayed on well to assert under pressure approaching last; dropped out and tailed off after a mile behind Chris’s Dream at Gowran Park last time, pulled up eventually. No form over 3m or at Cheltenham
In last year’s RSA Chase led 2 out, put under pressure, headed by Topofthegame last, hard driven, 1st 2 pulled clear up the hill, changed legs 150 yards out, no extra final 100 yards, stuck to task and giving the impression that the further he goes, the better he’ll be. Scrambled win from Now McGinty in intermediate chase at Sandown to start the season which is best forgotten; improved considerably when winning Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January, looking like the race would bring him on; drew upsides Bristol De Mai 16th, mistake 4 out, the better jump and led 3 out, moved best of the field in a 3-length lead approaching home turn, pushed along once in line for home and was closed on approaching 2 out, mistake and was joined, ridden, headed narrowly approaching last, 1st 2 pulled clear, hard ridden, rallied to lead early on run-in, pulled clear up the hill, workmanlike and decisive in the end. Wants a truckload of rain and that’s not in the weather forecast – for me the one to take on

Shortlist: Al Boum Photo, Delta Work, Presenting Percy

Cheltenham 4.10
St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase Class 2
3m2f70y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 23 runners

The Punchestown Champion Hunter-winner Caid Du Berlais*, who easily defeated the reopposing Marcle Ridge in a point at Buckfastleigh on January 19th, is first on the shortlist. The former National Hunt Chase-winner Minella Rocco*, who’s two from two in hunters and, by virtue of straighter jumping, beat last year’s Foxhunter-winner Hazel Hill, who jumped to his right, at Wetherby last month, joins him, and last year’s runner-up Shantou Flyer*, who clipped heels with Hazel Hill at the third last and made up four lengths on the run-in, completes my top trio – Shantou Flyer has now joined Rose Loxton and won well at Fakenham on his way here, clear from the third last, so with Caid Du Berlais as well the West country-handler could well get the forecast.

Shortlist: Caid Du Berlais, Minella Rocco, Shantou Flyer

Cheltenham 4.50
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
2m62y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 20 runners

Great Field
Deteriorated since December 2018, seeming to have forgotten how to jump, and left behind from 8th the last time he completed the course in Champion Chase at Punchestown last April. Joined Jonjo O’Neill. Looks best watched, and jockeys won’t want to be tracking this one
In this race last year closing in midfield under a push home turn, short of room 2 out, hard driven, no further impression between last 2, looked held last, hard driven and kept on but unable to make a place last 125 yards and 8th to Croco Bay. Unusually for this one made most to win Castleford at Wetherby on December 27th, beating Hawk High; flattered to run so close to Defi du Seuil in Clarence House at Ascot last time. Ground has come right but would be better in a smaller field
At last year’s Festival was tailed off behind Defi Du Seuil in the JLT (now the Marsh), struggling when blundered 4 out, last 3 out. Bolted up in good handicap chase at Ascot in November but nothing in better races since, tailed off behind Defi Du Seuil in Clarence House at Ascot last time. Might do better back in this handicap
Paloma Blue
In 2018 ran 4th to Summerville Boy in the Supreme Novices’, stayed on up the hill and was closing on the 3rd last 150 yards; last year tailed off in the Arkle behind Duc Des Genievres, mistake 10th, kept on a little going down the hill to 3 out, pushed along after, no impression approaching home turn. A bit hit and miss but back to form at Leopardstown last time behind Eclair De Beaufeu, prominent, pushed along after 2 out, stayed on, effort on inner and every chance when was bumped in the air last, put under pressure, stayed on, high tail carriage, held on well in battle for 2nd last 150 yards. What happened at the last probably didn’t cost the win, but did cost him ground. Chance
Made all to win at Kelso in October; not seen since pulling up at Cheltenham on heavy ground behind Saint Calvados. Hasn’t won between October and May and looks best in the Summer
Gino Trail
In 2018 when still with Kerry Lee was runner-up in the Grand Annual, led 2 lengths last, hard driven, headed 175 yards out, outpaced, stuck to task under pressure, held on well for 2nd but no impression on Le Prezien. Now 13 and on first start for Fergal O’Brien, had the going in his favour when making all at Doncaster on February 29th, maintained clear advantage under a ride going to 2 out, was closed on a little when pulled out another good jump last, ridden out, all out, stayed on well till stride shortened inside last 50 yards, holding on from Katpoli and Nuts Well. Not expected to repeat that on drier ground
Unbeaten over fences with best run when winning Class 3 handicap at Musselburgh  on February 1st, keen hold up with the pace, produced to challenge 4 out, travelled much the best, disputed lead approaching 3 out, drew 2 lengths clear going to 2 out, pushed along and stayed on to draw further clear approaching last, pushed out, readily, unchallenged from Cracking Destiny. Landed the odds at Fakenham last time; worried he’ll pull too hard
Eclair De Beaufeu*
In last year’s County Hurdle ran on to draw 3 lengths clear a furlong off last, was closed on 150 yards off it, hard ridden, was about to be swallowed up when mistake and unseated rider. Unexposed chaser won Grade B handicap at Leopardstown from the reopposing Paloma Blue,  tracked leaders looking largely comfortable after 2 out, soon niggled along, pushed along once in line for home, stayed on and led last, driven out, stayed on, sustained effort to the line. Straightforward performance and chance (as long as he’s not sent for home too early like he was in the County)
Us And Them
In last year’s Arkle was taken off his legs and best work at the end, strong effort under pressure to go 2nd up the hill, not the remotest impression on Duc De Genievres. Ran well at Gowran Park in October, made most to 3 out then weakened. Tailed off last two runs, blinkered first time on latest. Blinkered again – the headgear didn’t work last time and surely won’t work this
Chosen Mate*
Won his beginners’ chase at Gowran Park in January, tracked leaders approaching 4th, slow 6th, headway to chase leader approaching 3 out, left in lead there, moved best, shaken up 2 out, found extra and drew clear going to last, ran on run-in, eased late, readily from Capuccimix. Took it with plenty in hand and showed a good turn of foot before and after the second last; needs more but the way he won at Gowran Park suggests improvement’s in there
Won three chases: best this season when 3rd to Northern Beau at Cheltenham in December on soft, 4 lengths 5th 3 out, niggled along after it, soon more firmly pushed, stayed on home turn, closed on leaders approaching 2 out, ridden and one pace between last 2, wandered when ridden, picked up a little last 150 yards and stayed on same pace. Turned his head this way and that when first shaken up, not the first time he hasn’t looked straightforward, but he’s well treated
Caid du Lin
In this race last year made mistakes, made little ground going down the hill to 3 out, mistake there and pecked on landing, pushed along some 20 lengths down and well held approaching 2 out, no more. Successful at Ludlow in December, unseated early behind Dolos at Sandown last time: not expected to better last year’s 13th
Winter Escape 
Done the rounds has this one, and on first start for Ben Haslam did little at Wetherby on February 1st, not fluent 9th, niggled along and lost place from 11th, detached last and tailing off 12th, soon pulled up behind Nuts Well. Hard to fancy
Two Taffs 
Back to form when a staying-on 2nd to Clondaw Castle at Warwick after the usual hold-up ride, taking 2nd run-in but no chance with winner. Normally races over around 2m4f and unlikely to be quick enough
Croco Bay
Last year’s winner at 66/1 off 139, arguably moved best approaching home turn, pushed along turning in, stayed on going to 2 out, hard driven on landing, sustained effort in front, about half a length up jumping last, was strongly challenged by Bun Doran, put under strong pressure, pulled out more last 150 yards. Has to contend with a higher mark this year but comes in good form after 2nd at Doncaster last time, chasing the all-the-way winner Western Miller throughout, pushed along 4 out, hard ridden and stayed on going to 2 out, put under pressure, outpaced between last 2, steadied into last, driven run-in, came clear of 3rd, closed on winner inside last 100 yards. Hard to rule out
Lisp *
At last year’s Festival ran 5th to Ch’tibello in County Hurdle, hard ridden off home turn, stayed on, closed on 2nd and 3rd and chance of a place approaching last, not fluent, driven and one pace last 175 yards, stuck to task. Has won one of his three chases and best form to date over fences when 3rd to Mister Fisher in Lightning Novices’ Chase at Doncaster in January, led, in close to 6th, reached for and blundered 7th, niggled along home turn, more firmly ridden along and stayed on in narrow lead going to 2 out, headed soon after, faded after last, kept on. Lacks a change of pace but this tough contest is likely to suit him
Jan Maat
Won two chases and best to date when last seen out, beating Cool Colonnade in Grade 3 at Punchestown in October,  jumped left 4th then left in lead from only remaining rival, the better jump 7th, nudged along approaching 3 out and again approaching home turn, more firmly pushed along approaching 2 out, stayed on between last 2, some 4 lengths up last, ridden out, found extra and pulled further clear, readily. No pressure after two of his three rivals went out of the race early, but impressed with his jumping and posted fairly high style marks
Front-running chaser, best form in the Summer and Autumn, in first time cheekpieces won at Kempton in October when last seen,  jumped soundly, pushed along from 3 out, stayed on well, clear 2 out, drew further clear between last 2, safe last, eased last 50 yards, decisive from Solar Impulse. Going went wrong when below form in Red Rum Chase at Aintree back in April and worth another chance in a good handicap
Veteran in this race, placed twice, but has had several long breaks since April 2018 and was tailed off when last completing the course, and pulled up when last seen out at Cheltenham in December. Looks past his best
The Bay Birch 
In good form earlier this season but unable to go with Springtown Lake with three to jump at Warwick last time and has been beaten double digits on all starts at 2m

Shortlist: Eclair De Beaufeu, Chosen Mate, Lisp

Cheltenham 5.30
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle Class 2 0-145
2m4f56y – Going: Soft (Good to Soft in places) –
Over the New Course – 24 runners

Braid Blue
Chased home Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie at Cheltenham in December: decisive winner at Warwick on February 8th when last seen; likely to be prominent in the betting
Five O’Clock
Produced to lead 2 out and stayed on thoroughly to beat reopposing Front View in Michael Purcell Memorial at Thurles last time and is two from three over hurdles
Column Of Fire*
Best so far when 3rd to Treacysenniscorthy in good handicap at Leopardstown in February over 3m, put under pressure home turn, stayed on into 2nd approaching last, lost that place nearing it, switched, kept on, rallied last 150 yards and just failed to get 2nd. Possibilities
Espoir De Romay
Reasonable style marks for winning at Wincanton off 132 last time, wide on home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, led there, ridden clear, stayed on well approaching last, pusehd out, not hard ridden last 150 yards, readily beat Earth Moor. Could go well
Probably didn’t run badly when 6th beaten 10 lengths behind Latest Exhibition in Grade 1 at Leopardstown in February, put under pressure home turn, kept on without making an impression approaching last, no more, appeared to have running in him last 50 yards. No response to Five O’Clock in Michael Purcell Memorial at Thurles last time, led 2 out, hard ridden, headed approaching last, no extra. Form looks up to scratch
Doctor Duffy
Recent form doesn’t inspire; 2nd at Cork to Well Set Up in November is good enough though, despite a couple of mistakes. Now seven and only the one seven year-old has won the Martin Pipe so far (Blow By Blow, 2018)
Mill Green
Pretty hopeless after a mile of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time; took advantage of a strongly-run 2m to win at Sandown in testing conditions the time before; makes mistakes
Good effort when 5th to Stoney Mountain at Haydock in November but a couple of mistakes and didn’t see it out, weakening in the final 100 yards; outpaced over 2m at Ascot next time behind Not So Sleepy; has hung in the closing stages before and is in cheekpieces for the first time
Big Blue
Little impact in Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and failed to see the race out, having been within 10 lengths turning for home, behind Stormy Ireland in Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas when last seen
My Sister Sarah
Struggled in the mares’ novice at this meeting last year before late work to almost get 12th beaten only 11 lengths; over too short a trip at Leopardstown last time (2m2f) and niggled along in midfield when fell 3 out; better run,over too short a trip, when chasing up Elfile at Thurles in November, closing as the line came; has won over 3m but last time out-fall tempers enthusiasm
Front View
An okay-2nd at Thurles last time though getting the worst of the argument against Five O’Clock when mistake last in 3rd, rallied to take 2nd close home but no impression on winner: the way I read it he has something to find at the weights
Won over 2m5f at Galway in July; staying-on 5th to The Moyglass Flyer at Leopardstown last time, well held last, continued to stay on under a ride, finished well and passed three rivals to take 5th run-in. Will improve for sure over this trip
Cliffs Of Dover
First start since January 2019: pulls very hard and unlikely to get home over this trip as a result
The Bosses Oscar
Too much to do on hurdling debut at Punchestown, closed strongly on Blue Sari but never getting there; won his maiden well at Leopardstown then 2nd to French Dynamite at Thurles, half a chance when blundered last – his second mistake of the race, there’s normally one error from him in his races. A bit to find
Anything Will Do 
Spent force after the second last when weakening to 3rd behind French Dynamite and The Bosses Oscar at Thurles last time over 2m4f, stepped up in trip from 2m – it’s his worst to date and doesn’t bode well here
Flash The Steel 
Winning reappearance in Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October, held up, a couple of mistakes, headway to track leaders home turn, ridden to lead last, all out and had little left at the end holding on from Champagne Court and Imperial Aura, who I think has won something half-decent since… Last time out made a string of errors before weakening in the straight behind Stoney Mountain at Haydock. Gives the impression he barely stays 2m4f and will need more stamina than he showed at Chepstow
Got within 4 lengths of Chantry House in an NH novices’ hurdle at Cheltenham in December. Landed the odds in small novice hurdles the last twice, over 2m4f on heavy at Ffos Las last time, moved best as pulled 2 lengths clear of Republican going to 2 out, had pulled further clear under a hand ride by last, pushed out
Ruthless Article
Three wins in the Summer/Autumn; returned from a break in Grade 2 at Cheltenham in January but didn’t do well and well beaten behind Harry Senior, moved upsides 2 out nudged along, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly pushed, weakened markedly approaching last, got tired quickly. A bit to find
Thomas Macdonagh
Effectively had a solo when winning at Wetherby in November, making all and quickening off his own steady pace. In stronger company in Grade 2 at Doncaster last time tried to serve it up to Ramses De Teillee but was off the bit to stay with him approaching the home turn and weakened markedly in the straight. This is his maximum trip on pedigree
Improved second-season hurdler without giving the impression that a big win is just round the corner, led going best before outstayed by Fred at the end on soft ground at Kempton on Boxing Day then a midfield finish in Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, niggled along home turn, caught wide, ridden, carried head high, hung left, put under pressure approaching last, mistake, ridden, no impression last 175 yards. Attitude under suspicion
Kept some decent company in his three starts, chasing home Thyme Hill at Cheltenham in November then 3rd to Enrilo in Grade 2 at Sandown in December, a couple of mistakes, upsides leader looking comfortable home turn, ridden approaching 2 out, came wide into it, put under pressure, couldn’t go with 1st 2, driven and pulled clear of 4th, kept on. Chance
In good form in the Summer, beating Doctor Duffy in novice over 2m7f at Killarney in August, tight for room on inner and had to force a gap bumping rival approaching 2 out, put under pressure, stayed on, driven out from last. Off the track since tailed off behind Darver Star at Limerick in October, pushed along and weakened approaching home turn, going worst of the field as dropped to detached last. Hasn’t gone well when fresh up to now
Great White Shark
Well fancied for a good handicap at Galway in August but didn’t deliver, didn’t settle, travelled strongly, several mistakes, firmly pushed along 2 out, hard ridden home turn, not clear run nearing last and mistake, kept on to be 3rd to Great Trango; also a mistake 3 out at Leopardstown last time when a spent force before the last behind Treacysenniscorthy. Not likely to take a hand
Escaria Ten
Gets a run on the withdrawal of Braid Blue (both trained by Gordon Elliott); won his maiden over 3m at Cork in January, tracked leaders going comfortably home turn, chased leader 3 out, niggled along approaching 2 out, closed on leader, pushed along approaching last, effort and led, steadied into it, headed, driven, stayed on well, led close home and going away from Atlantic Shore at the line; had to work slightly harder to defy a penalty at Ayr but asserted from the last at the end of 3m to pull away from Portstorm. A bit to find at the weights

Shortlist: Indefatigable, Column Of Fire, Pileon

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