An interesting handicap chase to start our televised jumping action, and it looks as if our close ally Nigel Twiston-Davies will allow Ballybolley to take his place after a frustrating run of third places in his last trio of contests. Clearly in good heart, if anyone deserves a change of luck he would be your man, and we wonder if the currently official Good going may be the key to an improved performance this week with his best bumper and hurdling form on better ground than the heavy he has encountered of late.
Old friend Raktiman is one of the few entered with winning form last time out and Sam Drake will be hoping that the nine year old will go in again under regular pilot Jonathan England. Somehow they managed to squeeze plenty of improvement out of him over this sort of trip at Catterick when he put in a career best effort by some margin, and although he did manage to slip a smallish field that day, we are pretty hopeful that in this sort of form and on this sort of going he will try and succeed in doing the same thing here!
Donald McCain is rapidly becoming the Marmite of jumps trainers with punters either singing his praises or moaning about his faults with no one seemingly without an opinion. Beauty is as beauty does and he has already got two wins out of Cloudy Joker this season ad comes here looking for number three. Catterick seems to be his favoured hunting ground if those victories are to be believed, but he has won elsewhere in the past but is yet to try his luck around here though we do note he may be better at two miles even if he does seems to stay further pretty comfortably.
Nick Williams may well send the delightfully named The Italian Yob here and if he does Lizzie Kelly will ride, and she is great value for here five pound claim, a fact most punters don’t seem to have worked out just yet. There is a possibility they could go a bit too fast for him today with an extra couple of furlongs needed to bring out his very best, but he was a decent enough second to Gamain last time out despite looking as if he would rather be elsewhere, and although we should never second guess a trainer, we are rather hoping they throw some headgear on him here to get him to concentrate when needed.
To round off the race nicely, we keep coming back to Five In A Row who seems to only have two ways of running – either winning or being out with the washing! Lightly raced over fences with just the four starts and two victories, he creates that difficult balancing act of inexperience on the one side and potential on the other, but when he gets it right he does look pretty good, and we will be looking to see his price before thinking about him as an each way alternative to the probable favourite who could be easy to oppose.