There are a number of interesting contenders in this handicap hurdle, but none more so than the Jonjo O’Neill trained Cloudy Copper. The lightly-raced nine-year-old was really disappointing over the larger obstacles with no wins from six attempts, but he is actually unbeaten over hurdles having won his only two previous runs back in the 2012/13 season. He looked like a decent sort over the timber before a lengthy injury absence so he catches the eye now returned to this sphere for his shrewd trainer and with champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson booked to do the steering he gets the nod.
Isaactown Lad is a hurdler in form this term and has shot up the weights off the back of four victories in the last twelve months. The nine-year-old has since been well beaten in a couple of really hot handicaps since then and although today’s task is probably more his level, he still looks in the handicapper’s grip for the moment.
The main danger to the selection will likely come from the David Pipe trained Gavrey Chambertain. The horse was an impressive wide-margin winner the last time he raced in this grade and is only 4lb higher for today’s race, but has been well off the boil in each of his last three runs.
Cloudy Copper (WIN)
Scott Dixon’s yard is in fine fettle at the minute and he will likely go close again here with Crosse Fire. The four-year-old already has three course and distance wins to his name since December so he clearly likes it around here, but he dwelt at the start last time out to cost his chance last time out and if he does that again here off the same mark it may be curtains because of the kickback. Another interesting contender is the David Evans trained Sir Billy Wright. The five-year-old went close over today’s course and distance, but has since gone up 2lb for that effort. Following that the horse competed well here last time out over a furlong extra so he should definitely be competitive as another one who likes the surface. The stand out pick, however, has to be Robert Cowell’s Desert Command. The six-year-old was a decent operator in his youth and so has some solid form to his name. He holds Crosse Fire on the form of a placed effort at the track back in January where it finished behind it. He is now back on a winning mark and with an optimum draw in stall five, he looks primed for a big run in the hands of Graham Gibbons. So he gets the confident nod to return to winning ways.
Desert Command (E/W)
It has been great to see the return to UK action for former champion jockey Sylvestre De Sousa this week and he looks to have a great chance of getting in the winners enclosure at the Essex track tonight. He gets the leg up for Mark Johnston’s Stetchworth. The five-year-old is without a win since 2014 and has been well below its best in its last three starts, but the handicapper has now given him a real chance to strike as he steps back up to the trip he last scored over. The horse will have been freshened up by the recent seven week break and has run well fresh in the past so expect him to run a big race at a track that suits his front-running style to a tee the former champ doing the steering. He is the Each Way selection.
The main danger to the selection will likely come from James Tate’s Fit The Bill. The four-year-old impressed at this grade when success at Lingfield back in december and that enhanced his record to four wins from 12 runs last year, but he was a beaten favourite when last seen at Kempton in February and he may have to settle for minor honours again on his first visit to the quirky track.
The obvious danger is the likely favourite Coillte Caitlin. The six-year-old is in top form at the moment and won her first two outings this year; one here over course and distance then a follow up at Wolverhampton. She was then runner up last time out back at Wolves and while she will likely be competitive again here, the handicapper may have caught up to her now.