Favourite backers will be looking for their hat trick here after the 9/4 success of Art Mauresque in 2015 and the 11/4 win for the Tom George trained Always On The Run last season (though he was joint favourite to be exact. Champion trainer Paul Nicholls won’t be giving up his title any time soon if he has his way and Clic Work (6/5) will be strongly fancied to add to the prize money gathered already this season. Connections are of the opinion that he can be a lot better over fences than he was over hurdles and he is certainly going the right way with two wins out of two over fences, one each at Doncaster and Taunton. After his first victory jockey Sam Twiston-Davies was quoted saying “I was very pleased with that. Clic Work really attacked his fences and looks as though he is going to be a better chaser than hurdler…” which has to be seen as encouraging, and as he is only a baby in chasing terms at the tender age of five, there ought to be an awful lot more to come with maturity and experience. Both his wins were by nine lengths when he stayed on well over this sort of trip, so a fast run race would probably suit him best this afternoon, and with his stable hitting a perfectly acceptable 16% win rate he has to enter calculations and ought to go close at the very least.
With value number one on the punters priority list it should be worth siding with Holly Bush Henry (7/2) who is yet another last time out winner to consider having scored at Market Rasen last time out after a solid second to the very useful Frodon the race before. Another potential front runner, he was heavily odds on that day and scored easily enough at the line, but he did make a few errors that day and will have been well schooled since to make sure those are not repeated. In this field there is a good chance that he will get something else to lead him here which could help him to relax and he ought to do a lot better at his fences and can come with a late rattle to win today. After his last win his trainer said “Holly Bush Henry was a bit too exciting there for my liking, ……He will be better with a lead, I think he was a bit too extravagant because he was in front. ……. I think he is better on a flat track….”all of which can only be seen as encouraging, and a big race is eagerly anticipated.
It is a pretty rare thing to see any trainer showing a level stakes profit for the season yet Nicky Henderson is showing exactly that with over thirty-one points for his supporters and he will hope to add to that with top weight Days Of Heaven (7/2) who has plenty to do carrying eleven stone nine. Rated as highly as 145 over hurdles, he only switched his attentions to fences in May last year when winning at Kempton over two and a half miles before returning to hurdles where he unseated Nico De Boinville at Worcester. Sent to America he fished fifth at Far Hills in the Grand National Hurdle Stakes, picking up over £9000 in doing so, before a third at Camden in Carolina added another £10,000 to the kitty. That was in November and he hasn’t been seen since which is no huge surprise, and I he is race fit this afternoon after four months off his form would give him a solid chance here, though there is a thought that the quicker the ground the better and any further rain may yet halt his chances.
Theatre Flame (7/1) comes next on the list for trainer David Bridgwater who is one of the more amusing characters at the winter game. Sadly, that hasn’t helped him recently with any winners with a record of none from seven in the last two weeks, but the seven-year-old has bits and pieces of form that would give him every chance this afternoon. A win, two seconds, and a third over fences shown he has plenty of ability with the win at Newbury back in January when he beat the very useful Max Ward by three and a quarter lengths and a repeat of that may well see him successful again here. He did fall next time out at Wincanton before a third to Champagne At Tara (beaten less than a length) and a fourth to San Benedeto last time out, and if he does as well on this quicker ground he ought to be involved in the finish.
Lastly, anyone looking for a light weight will be interested in the Ian Williams trained Midtech Valentine (16/1), who gets eleven pounds or more from all of her rivals here. The yard are in solid form with a 30% strike rate in the last two weeks, but has little chance on the form book. Twenty-seven lengths behind Clic Work at Doncaster, she meets that rival on seventeen pounds better terms today but on paper that didn’t ought to be enough to turn that around, though obviously she ought to be able to finish an awful lot closer now.