IN SUMMARY: An intriguing contest that sees the well-handicapped Little Jon carry top weight but he may have to give second best to BEKKENSFIRTH this time around assuming Dan Skelton’s runner improves as expected after his recent outing over hurdles following a long lay-off. Lightly raced over fences he may well have a lot more to offer if connections can keep him sound, and today could well be the start of a decent run for the eight-year-old gelding.
1 LITTLE JON – Not at his best so far this season with a fifth at Worcester followed by a fifth at Newbury, beaten thirty-three lengths and twenty-three lengths respectively. Absolutely thrown in here at the weights if Nigel Twiston-Davies can somehow get him back to his best as he runs off a mark of 123 and has won off as high as 138 but no signs of a revival as yet and possibly still best watched for the moment.
2 BEKKENSFIRTH – Fully entitled to improve for his first run in close to two years last time out when sent over hurdles at Newbury and likely to strip a lot fitter this afternoon. Dan Skelton returns the eight-year-old to fences now and as he looked likely to go on to bigger and better things after a course and distance win and a second to Full Shift at Kempton next time out. One pound more to carry here but lightly raced and open to any amount of further improvement.
3 VOLT FACE – Yet to win over fences after seven starts with a head second at Kempton the highlight, and pulled up at Ascot last Saturday when making too many mistakes and fading quickly. Strange to see him out again quite so quickly but the cheekpieces are off again this afternoon and with Paul O’Brien taking five pounds off his back, he may do better though a win still looks beyond him.
4 ALLEE BLEUE – Seventh in both starts so far in this campaign for trainer Philip Hobbs bad clearly needs to do better than that to take a hand in the finish. Decent over hurdles and even on the flat but hasn’t looked a natural over the larger obstacles and although likely to be better than his current mark he needs to brush up on is jumping before he will win a race over fences.
5 CROWN HILL – Two wins from just the four starts over fences for trainer Johnny Farrelly, the first here over two miles and the latest in March over a furlong further in March. Four losing starts since, all of them over hurdles, and has to try and carry an added ten pounds compared to his last chasing victory. Should run well but others do appeal more at these weights.
6 FERGAL MAEL DUIN – Undoubtedly well-handicapped at his best having won off a rating of 120 in October 2016 and rated 116 here, but out of sorts in his last six races with a thirty-eight length fifth of six at Fontwell last time out. Drops back in trip having competed over three miles or more in his last three starts and may find things happen too quickly for him here on his return to this sort of distance.
7 GO WEST YOUNG MAN – Unseated and pulled up in his last two races and not exactly the sort a punter can rely on. Yet to win over fences and just the one victory from seventeen starts over hurdles is not a record to be proud of and although Henry Daly is an excellent trainer even he may struggle to get another win out of the nine-year-old gelding here.
8 JARLATH – A winner last time out off a rating just then four pounds lower and commands respect again here off of bottom weight despite the rise in class. He did only score by a neck at Warwick but would have been a more comfortable winner had he not made a mistake at the last and if he can put in a clear round today he is fully entitled to be a major player here with more to come at the tender age of six.