This looks quite a warm novice race for this time of year and a few of the leading stables are represented. Perennial champion jockey AP McCoy has ridden four winners from seven this season for Nicky Henderson and the pair team up again today with Son Du Berlais. The ex French four year old barely broke sweat when winning at Newton Abbott on his debut and could be anything. The forecast ground is ideal for him and though he will have to improve to take this, he simply cannot be opposed. Blakion comes from a yard firing and looks a danger having completed the four timer last time, he’s entitled to go close but lacks the scope of the Henderson horse and is opposable for that reason. Vicente showed a nice attitude when winning at Cheltenham last time and Relentless Dreamer looks a nice prospect, both have place claims on the book and both are respected.
Son Du Berlais (WIN)
These handicaps are devilishly difficult at this time of year but Nick Williams looks to have an intriguing sort in Aubussion so a chance is going to be taken. A winner over course and distance last season he followed up at Cheltenham on soft ground and was thought good enough to face Red Sherlock at the same venue afterwards. In the event he was soundly beaten but he has the scope to do better now handicapping and so he’s taken at a decent price to run into the money on his seasonal/handicap debut. Regal Encore has proved to be very frustrating for one with such obvious class, he’s never really fulfilled the promise shown when second in the Champion Bumper a couple of season back but is a major player if he can finally translate the ability. Boondooma is as consistent as they get and was impressive here last time, the handicapper slapped him with a twelve pounds penalty for that but it was justified and he is feared.
Aubussion (E/W if 5/1+)
Lilac Lace took this last term off an eight pounds higher mark, she loves heavy ground though and will surely go close attempting to double up. Her form has been patchy this season but her last run at Redcar was encouraging and so, she has to be high on the list. Azagal comes from the same stable as the aforementioned Lilac Lace, she ran a tremendous race off a mark nine pounds wrong last time and will act on the ground. From a handicapping point of view its very difficult to pick between the Easterby horses but Azagal is probably more reliable and is very difficult to oppose on these terms and is taken to nail them late on. Dusky Queen is generally consistent and wont mind the testing ground, she has to be respected but looks likely to struggle to turn over both the Easterby horses.
by Chris Connolly