We start off with the feature race of the day and newly awarded Grade One Novice Hurdle over two mile four furlongs won last year by Briar Hill. Willie Mullins throws three darts at the race with Tell Us More, Mckinley and Killer Crow all off which are Gigginstown owned. Tell Us More is by far the most exciting of the three and no shock to see Bryan Cooper take the ride. Bryan who has been in superb form over the festive period and will love to add another Grade One to the four he won at Leopardstown. This Scorpion gelding is unbeaten to date with two wins under rules in his bumper and maiden at cramped odds. He jumped really well the last day at Gowran Park and already heads the market for the staying novices races at Cheltenham.
That said Willie Mullins hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders over Christmas with a few big guns been overturned. At the start of the season the talk was Gordon Elliot had the ammunition to challenge the Carlow trainer this year and he has proved that with a few notable victories. He has Free Expression in the JP colours looking to step up from his Grade Two victory last time out. The form of that race has worked out well with two winners and a close second next time up. The fifth runs earlier in the day at odds of 1/5 in a maiden hurdle. Free Expression was still green that day and there is plenty of improvement to come. He clearly has the more proven form and is taken to cause a small shock at more favourable odds.
Off the remainder Killer Crow is probably the most likely to benefit if the top two fail to fire with the rest on a fact finding mission.
Free Expression (WIN)
The Sussex National sponsored by At The Races takes centre stage in UK on Sunday afternoon with fourteen due to take their chance in this marathon event. The going will make this extremely testing and stamina will be the name of the game. Overnight Dan Skelton’s Amroth Bay has been the subject of some strong support and it’s easy to see why. He has won his two races since moving hard and the form of his last race was franked by the second on Saturday with Soudain running well again in defeat. The ground for me is the biggest worry having not won on Heavy going since his bumper win with a career high mark in a more competitive field he is overlooked.
Adrenalin Flight comes into this race after a winning a four mile race at Exeter on good to soft. He had a number of rivals in behind that day and while he receives an eight pound rise for that he could have more improvement in him. However he may struggle to reverse the form with the selection Gorgehous Lliege who won the Southern National on heavy ground before pulling up behind Adrenalin Flight. I can forgive him that as the ground was probably against him plus he was badly hampered. The Williams and Coleman combination may strike again in the mud.
It would be folly to rule out Reblis who won this race last year and finished fourth in the race won by Adrenalin Flight. Gary Moore likes Plumpton and seems to have had Reblis geared towards this race all season, He should run his race, as should Viking Blond who has in form jockey Sean Bowen on board taking a valuable five pounds off.
This is a wide open contest as you would expect for a National event however given conditions Gorgehous Lliege should run a big race.
Gorgehous Lliege (E/W)
We head back to Ireland for the final selection of the day and a two mile handicap over hurdles. Most of these arrive in some level of good form. Current market leader is Moreece who has finished in the top five in his last five runs and bids to finally get his head in front today. This nineteen race maiden always runs his race but is very exposed and there looks to be no room in his mark for any improvement and is readily overlooked.
Liz Doyle’s Broadway Twist ran well in December in a similar event to this and was only raised a pound. He looks the type to win again however has shown no consistency in his races very rarely backing up a good run. Similar could be said for top weight Mind The Pennies however his run behind Harvey Logan looks good form however he was raised five for that run and may struggle to win off this mark so is best watched for now.
Selection again comes from Gordon Elliot in form yard and the most unexposed horse in the field. High Expectations has only gone four years of age and takes his place in his first handicap. This Perth Juvenile winner benefits from weight for age allowance which see him nearly get weight all round despite been one of the top rated horses in the race. Whether he is mature enough to take this is the main concern however given trainers record in handicaps am willing to take the chance that he is.
High Expectations (WIN)