Considering how competitive this looks at the early stage it comes as some surprise to see not one big priced winner in the eight recorded renewals with a couple of 12/1 shots as bad as it got though just the one favourite successful and that was back in 2007. Not one trainer has managed to win it more than once so no help there and being over three miles and two furlongs stamina seems to be the key and any faint hearted challengers seem sure to be found out.
Thirteen days ago Nigel Twiston-Davies landed his charity bet for Myracing.com with Cogry (9/1 Each Way) who was returning to hurdles after a rough time over fences and had a tough battle with Rocklander with a neck between the two of them at the line and a further ten lengths back to the third. He has been put up six pounds for that which will make life a lot more difficult, but he is a course winner (over two miles three over hurdles) and a distance winner (here over fences) and won’t be giving in under William Twiston-Davies assuming he has fully recovered from his latest outing. Word from Nigel is that he is in fine fettle at home and has come out of his last run in good order and a good run is eagerly anticipated at an each-way price.
Having said that, the next horse in our ace preview deserves to be the David Pipe trained Saint John Henry (8/1) who is the only course and distance winner in the field. Not only did he win but it was last time out as well (so not just form, but recent form) when seeing off Giveitachance by six lengths when making the running after taking it up at the seventh hurdle staying on strongly despite a mistake two out in a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. That was a Class Four so he will be stepping up considerably in class here plus a rating that has gone up seven pounds but at least he handles the trip and track and may have even more to offer at the young age of seven and could go well again, though it needs to be noted that his connections seem to think he prefers softer ground which he may not get on Saturday afternoon.
Tobefair (12/1) seems sure to be popular in the market as the seven-year-old gelding looks to continues his rapid rise up the ranks with potentially his sixth win in a row this afternoon. Amazingly, he started off at Worcester over two miles seven furlongs on good to firm going off a handicap rating of 81 when he scored by four and a half lengths at odds of 11/2 and won his last race at 9/2 off a rating of 120 by a length, a full 39 pounds higher. Held up last time out as is his usual racing style, he was produced as needed in a Class Three at Chepstow and has been put up another six pounds, but who is to say he cannot keep on improving even now. Apparently the long term plan is to go over fences (so when his winning run comes to an end they already have a Plan B), though he hasn’t stopped winning yet and could well add another on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Harry Whittington is back among the winners again and he has a really interesting contender here in Kilgeel Hill (14/1) who was a better than average novice back in 2014/2015 but hasn’t been seen on a race course in a very long time. Two wins from five starts over hurdles, one each at Leicester and Fontwell, were followed by a try in better company at Sandown in March 2015 when he found As De Mee and Great Try too good for him over two and a half miles but sadly he has not been seen since. Twenty-two months off will take some overcoming and a top-class training performance to put it mildly, but he runs off a two-pound lower rating now which looks highly generous based on his actual achievements.
Finally, Splash Of Ginge and Cogry (see above) have both recently proved that a good horse can switch from fences to hurdles successfully if needed, and Mark Pitman’s Buddy Bolero (33/1) may try to emulate their achievements. A decent staying chaser in his day with David Pipe reaching a rating of 144 at his peak, he is still running aged eleven and was pulled up over fences at Kempton after far too many mistakes on his first outing since March 2015 but ought to strip a little fitter now with a race under his belt, and off a rating of just 129 today is undoubtedly well handicapped if connections can work a miracle and get him back to anywhere near his best.