Just the two winning favourites from the last ten renewals at odds of 11/4 and 7/2 while others have scored at 20/1 and 28/1 so no need to look for a short price to be successful. No trainer has doubled up in the same period though Tom Scudamore has ridden the winner twice and whoever he rides may well be worthy of a second look. Sadly, we don’t have a single entry who won last time out but it may be best to start with Graasten (7/4) who clearly deserves including at the top of the list for Sussex trainer Gary Moore and jockey Jamie Moore, the trainer’s son. After winning twice on the flat in Germany he started his new career at Plumpton when second just over a year ago and has won once in another five races over obstacles since when scoring by three lengths back at Plumpton in October. Last time out he was tried in Listed company at Sandown when unsurprisingly outclassed by Brain Power and only managing seventh, but back in to a much lower grade and running off the same rating here, he is a bit of a dark horse and should go really well this afternoon.
Zenafire (11/2) is an interesting option after just the three races to get a handicap mark, and looked to be improving with a best yet third to Buckle Street last time out at Southwell over a fraction shorter than he faces today. Trainer Sarah Hollinshead has only had two recent runners and both of those lost so that has to be of some concern to his supporters but he could yet be well handicapped off a rating of 110 and if he improves again as expected he could well get involved in the finish.
Trainer Ian Williams is in good form of late with three winners from his last ten runners 30%) and better still, a level stakes profit of over ten points, and he has to think that bottom weight Thehossbehind (10/1) can go well here with Tom Scudamore in the saddle looking for his third winner in this particular contest. Lightly raced with just the five starts, his bumper second to London Prize on debut promised a fruitful career but so far things haven’t panned out that way with a twenty-two lengths eighth of thirteen at Huntingdon the nearest he has got to the winner in November 2016 in four starts over hurdles. Why he has failed to go on must be the source of plenty of frustration for his connections, but off of just ten stone two this afternoon in a race that won’t take too much winning, today could be his best chance yet which may say more about the opposition than him.
Weld Arab (7/1) may well arrive here with the best recent form after a second to Suffice at Worcester when going under by a neck, and he ran almost as well last time out off of five pounds higher when a four and a quarter length fifth to The Way You Dance at the same track. Outpaced at one stage, he ran on well once the winner had flown and may be better over a little further in time, but if they go fast enough today for him to sit in behind if Denis O’Regan chooses to follow the same tactics, he could well surprise them all and arrive on the scene late with a winning run.
Jockey Noel Fehily is in fine form with wins on board the likes of Buveur D’Air in the Champion Hurdle and Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and he will be on board Jonjo O’Neill’s Conteur D’Histoire (7/1) this afternoon as the youngest horse in the race looks to win his first race on his seventh start. Three races ago he finished second to Kalaniti at Wetherby which could well be stand out form in this field, though sadly he has failed to repeat that in two starts since with a twenty-nine length sixth when tried over two and a half miles at Southwell and then a seventy length fourteenth of fifteen at Hereford last time out. He ran far too freely that day and was a spent force a long way from home in a run that was too bad to be true, but with no guarantee he won’t do the same again his supporters will be looking for a decent price before backing him this afternoon.
Broughton’s Rhythm (9/2) has plenty of recent placed form with a fourth at Market Rasen followed by a third here over course and distance on heavy going last month. He was beaten twenty-five lengths that day so the form figures are a little misleading, but he did at least win a bumper on similar going on his racecourse debut in March 2014 and may well do better again this afternoon. Trainer Henry Spiller has only had the four runners this jumps season without a winner which is far from encouraging, but will be celebrating if this eight-year-old can break that sequence with jockey Richard Johnson an interesting jockey booking.
Lastly, we have Star Of Namibia (25/1), still a maiden after twenty-six starts on the flat and over jumps and in the care of trainer Michael Mullineaux at his Cheshire stables. He peaked at a lowly 70 on the flat and has been beaten twenty-six and twenty-seven lengths in his last two starts over hurdles and on that form and earlier efforts he is hard to make a case for even in a handicap off a rating of 102 and with jockey Conor Ring taking three pounds off his back.