Just the one running of this race so far and our partner Nigel Twiston-Davies won that with Ballybolley who looks sure to be back to defend his title and looks as good a starting point as any. Now an eight-year-old, he has been admirably consistent all season with wins at Wetherby and Huntingdon as well as places aplenty but he will have to carry four pounds more this year though that may not be beyond him. Last time out he ran at Kempton when a nine and three quarter length fourth to Max Ward in the Silver Bowl Chase which doesn’t look that bad yet the handicapper has dropped him another pound for that which looks to have opened the door to give him a serious chance. After a bit of a quiet spell the horses are coming back to form again with three wins in the last fortnight for a 10% strike rate, and if they are coming back to rude health again, he looks to have every chance with Daryl Jacob booked bright and early to take the ride.
Lucinda Russell is showing a level stakes profit in the last week partly thanks to Grand National winner One For Arthur but also boasts a 12% strike rate as well as eight points of profit. She looks likely to be represented here by Mumgos Debut, a winner last time out when holding on all out to beat Tomkevi a head after idling once he got to the front. That was a Class Four handicap at Carlisle and this is two grades higher but he has been put up just the three pounds here and looks likely to run carrying a feather weight. His trainer said after that win that “Mumgos Debut is actually a really good jumper, he has just had a few little blips. It is nice to get him back on track and he is quite progressive” referring to the pulled up and falls on his race record, and if he is over his jumping issues he could yet be a big player here and hand the stable another win, all be it one that doesn’t quite grab the media attention of One For Arthur.
After a pretty torrid time this season Jonjo O’Neill is finally in among the winners with a 21% strike rate thanks to eight winners from his last thirty-nine runners. He has Easy Street entered here as the J P McManus seven-year-old looks to follow up a two and three quarter length defeat of Italian Yob at Fontwell last time out when giving five pounds to the runner up and ten pounds to the third. He stayed on well over the two miles five that day but drops back a furlong here, and although he made a mistake two out Fontwell is not the easiest track to jump around cleanly, and that deserves to be forgiven. His win record of three chases from nine attempts stands close inspection but after the race jockey Aidan Coleman suggested he was as high on the ratings as he wants to be, and with an added six pounds today that will not be what his supporters wanted to read.
Some Buckle is a course and distance winner from his only ever visit to this track and Tom George’s gelding has top weight to carry here as the best horse in the race on official ratings at least. He was in the care of Paul Nicholls when he won here in March last year but won his second race over fences on his eighth attempt last time out at Stratford over a quarter mile further when sent in to the lead by Adrian Heskin three fences out and quickly pulling fourteen lengths clear of nearest rival Pull The Chord. It seems the handicapper wasn’t too impressed by the ease of that win and he has an added six pounds to shoulder now but he seems to be improving and cannot be easily written off for a stable still banging in the winners with five from their last twenty-eight runners.
No Planning is another who catches the eye, this time for trainer Sue Smith but mainly because the horse has a 29% success rate on the predicted going, a 25% success rate over this two and a half mile trip, and a 33% win rate at this course which all add up and suggest he has a decent chance. Add the fact that he won last time out at Newcastle over this trip when making most of the running before holding off Special Catch by three quarters of a length and his chance does become that bit more obvious, though an added three pounds will make life that bit more difficult.
One more to mention in this race preview and although Monetaire looks sure to go off at a big price, he really caught eye on his belated return when third to Some Buckle at Stratford. On pure form he cannot turn around that sixteen and a half length defeat but he meets his conqueror on eight pounds better terms but more importantly, seems sure to improve for his first race since November 2015. He has won two races over fences, one at Auteuil and one at Newbury and has few miles on the clock for an elven year old and those looking for a big priced each way option could do a lot worse than the David Pipe trained gelding this afternoon.