Woodford County finished seventh in this last year and looks fairly well treated near the bottom of the weights in this stamina sapping contest. He comes here in good form having won at Exeter over further last time and he won’t mind the quagmire conditions that are extremely likely this afternoon. He is an out and out stayer and has won twice in the past for young Ciaran Gethings who takes off an invaluable five pounds.
Tour Des Champs showed that he was right back to his best when defying a year and a half off the track to win over the course and distance last time out. That was as good a trial as any and if coming here in the same form, he rates as a massive danger. Emperors Choice deserves to be favourite having taken the spoils last year and then running right away with a decent handicap at Haydock last time. Venetia Williams also won this race back in 2000 with Jock’s Cross so it is something she specifically targets. Despite a career high mark he too warrants utmost respect.
Woodford County needs this sort of trip as an absolute minimum and is likely to be staying on when others have cried enough. Provided that his jumping holds together he should be capable of running a very big race.
Woodford County (E/W) – (NAP)
Ptit Zig has a few pounds to find with Wishful Thinking on the official ratings but the Paul Nicholls runner had him well and truly beaten in the Peterborough chase until he fell. That was an uncustomary error from the seven year old and all being well he can make amends this afternoon. A facile win at Down Royal followed by a fine second to Vautour in a Grade 2 at Ascot in November means that he is very much the one to beat here.
Wishful Thinking is likely to make all of the running this afternoon and could well prove hard to catch if allowed too much rope. He has been a model of consistency throughout his career and he rates as the biggest threat. Triolo D’Alene is no slouch and is of course a previous Hennessy winner. He has not been seen on the track for over a year and he is very much entitled to need this run. The ground is an obvious concern for the Nicky Henderson stalwart and he is best watched this afternoon.
Ptit Zig is likely to keep Wishful Thinking well and truly within his sights at all times this afternoon and he can give the master of Ditcheat a welcome change of luck by scooping yet another major prize on a Saturday.
Ptit Zig (WIN)
Coo Star Sivola made a good impression when finding only Wolf Of Wendlesham too strong in a Grade 2 event at Cheltenham back in November in what was his first outing in the UK. The front two pulled a few lengths clear of their rivals and with Nick Williams winning this a couple of seasons ago, it is of no surprise to see him identify this race as the next target for his four year old.
Adrien Du Pont was no match for Sceau Royal at Cheltenham last time but he can only learn from that defeat and he is likely to pose most problems for the selection. Being a French import suggests that he will handle the testing ground and he is unlikely to be too far away at the finish. This is a massive rise in grade for the undefeated Jaboltiski. His wins at Huntingdon and Exeter will have given him plenty of confidence and he could well step up again given the current excellent form of the Philip Hobbs yard.
Coo Star Sivola showed that he handled the mud on his debut and with further improvement likely he can go close again here. Aidan Coleman takes the reins for the first time this afternoon and the combination look destined to go well.
Coo Star Sivola (WIN)
Westren Warrior takes a big step up in class to contest this race but he is improving at a rate of knots. He has won on testing ground at Sligo and Lingfield in his relatively short career and has enough scope to challenge rivals from more fashionable yards. He has done better on each start for Richard Newland and William Kennedy rides him for the third time in a row. He has won over distances of up to three miles so his stamina is assured and he has to rate highly on any shortlist.
Unowhatimeanharry is undefeated since making the switch to the Harry Fry. The most recent of those wins came at Cheltenham where he saw off the attentions of Final Nudge and West Approach. He will need to step it up another gear but that is far from impossible and he commands the utmost respect. The front running Yala Enki is very lightly tried but he was found out at this level last time. A slight drop in trip should see him fare better and he is partnered by an in form Charlie Deutsch for the first time. Venetia Williams has her runners in terrific form and he too can make the places with the young jockey claiming five pounds.
Westren Warrior represents a stable who rarely bring their runners to the track without a chance. With assurances over the testing ground and the likelihood that he can improve further, he is taken to see off the challenge of his rivals.
Western Warrior (E/W if 9/2+)
Courtown Oscar is unbeaten when he has been partnered by James Reveley and is two from two on heavy ground so far this season. Despite nudging up the weights, he gets in at the right end of the handicap here and it would be of little surprise to see him make it four wins from his last five completed starts. The step up to three miles has proven the making of him and he has to be high on any shortlist this afternoon.
Subtle Grey has made the frame in all six previous starts and the booking of Barry Geraghty certainly catches the eye. Like the selection he is proven on heavy ground and at this level. He looks the main danger to the selection and Donald McCain is likely to have him primed to run well. Wizards Bridge has been in good form so far this year but he may struggle to give weight away all around this afternoon. Brendan Powell has never managed a win from three previous attempts on the seven year old and that somewhat tempers enthusiasm.
Courtown Oscar is still only fairly lightly raced and there still should be plenty more to some from this improving sort. With optimum conditions and stamina assured, he ought to prove difficult to beat.
Courtown Oscar (E/W if 9/2+)
Le Reve takes a drop in class to head this field and it wouldn’t be the biggest of shocks if he were to get his head in front once again. He is fully at home in soft going and he gets on well with Leighton Aspell. This looks to be the lowest form of opposition that he has faced in some time and Lucy Wadham may just be looking to get some confidence back into her stable star.
Kruzhlinin has recently moved from the yard of Donald McCain to that of Philip Hobbs and despite being off the track for the best part of a year, he may well improve for the change of scenery. Richard Johnson is in the saddle this afternoon and having gone well fresh in the past, he look destined to have a say in the outcome today. He is fully at home in heavy ground and will appreciate every pound that he receives from Le Reve. Whilst Shangani has never won over three miles, he was still travelling sweetly when coming to grief at this track last time. If fully over those exertions, he would have live each way claims yet again.
Le Reve has been given a short break by his trainer following a couple of disappointing runs so far this season. He should arrive here in peak condition and a bold run is expected given that most of the opposition usually struggle to put two decent runs together.
Le Reve (WIN)
Otago Trail should take all the beating here despite being burdened with top weight. The lightly raced eight year old has only had a handful of starts but he got back to winning ways following a fluent success at Exeter last time. In that last race he saw off the attentions of Mon Successeur and that individual has come out to frank the form subsequently. The front two pulled some twenty two lengths clear from their rivals suggesting that the form could well be worth following.
Going Concern came back to somewhere near his best when beaten around a length last time out. His form behind Pearl’s A Legend reads well here and he ought to prove the main threat to the selection. He has form on testing ground and that will stand him in good stead this afternoon. Fourth Act is a model of consistency and is as versatile as tent come. He wasn’t beaten all that far last time and is once again vying for place money.
Otago Trail represents a yard that is in red hot form at present and Aidan Coleman has won on him twice in the past. Venetia Williams’ runners tend to run their best races on this sort of ground and he looks to have been well placed by his astute handler.
Otago Trail (WIN)
Heath Hunter can’t have it soft enough and he seems to be running into form just at the right time. He was beaten only a couple of lengths following a slog in the mud at Ffos Las most recently and David Pipe is likely to have him in peak shape for another stamina sapping event.
Jumps Road is seen at his most effective also on this type of ground. A recent placed effort at Exeter should have blown away any lingering cobwebs and he looks a player in this decent sized field. Noel Fehily keeps the ride having not been beaten too far last time and they can get right in the mix. Tara Bridge has only has a few previous runs but he is getting better with each outing and has place prospects once again. Hollywood All Star will need to take a significant step forward having been raised in grade here.
Heath Hunter looks to have been ignored by Tom Scudamore today but that may prove a stroke of good fortune for young Kieron Edgar who is able to claim an invaluable three pounds off his partner. The combination look drained to go well and appeal at each way prices.
Heath Hunter (E/W if 9/2+)