With just the one race so far to work on we don’t have any historical statistics to fall back on, so straight down to business instead and Shadows Lengthen (5/1) deserves his place at the head of our race preview as one of only two course and distance winners in the line-up for trainer Mick Easterby, and with recent races under his belt he could well get involved in the finish, though top weight won’t exactly help his chances. His win here was actually in a better race off a pound higher mark even if he was carrying less weight that day, but he has won more than once carrying this much on his back and deserves support this afternoon being asked to do slightly less than he has already achieved.
Trainer Micky Hammond is one of racing’s true characters and good at his job as well, and he has Notnowsam (8/1) entered here as the five-year-old arrives here for his seventh start over the larger obstacles. One win and four second places suggest he has plenty of ability but this would be his first try beyond two miles and it will be interesting to see whether or not it brings any improvement. He has finished second here over fifteen furlongs so has some course experience and was tried more recently on the flat over two miles one at bath suggesting they do think he has plenty of untapped stamina and if there is a surprise for a place, why not him?
Early betting suggests that connections are pretty keen on the chances of Wells De Lune (7/2) and Charlie Longsdon’s six-year-old has already taken one of his three race over fences and can only improve. Since scoring at Warwick over two miles he finished a twenty-one length third to Double W’s at Carlisle when going off way too fast and tiring quickly but they are stepping him up in trip and if Brain Hughes rides him a bit more conservatively then he could well be a force to reckon with here.
Danny Cook was booked nice and early to ride Vercingetorix (20/1) here by trainer Harriet Bethell, and they are sparking up a useful partnership which can only get stronger over the years ahead. He has won on the flat, and he has won over hurdles, but not yet over fences despite four attempts but he does stand out with his strange jockey booking and may suit those who like an option at a massive price.
Looking through the handicap and Indian Voyage (8/1) could be interesting off a rating of 124 having won here at Wetherby off of three pounds higher in November last year over a fraction shy of two miles. Admittedly he has failed to win in ten races since but that is why he is off such a good weight now, and his fourth to Special Catch last time beaten less than eight lengths at Ayr is good enough to suggest he can take a hand if he gets home over the extra three furlongs.
Meanwhile, Chestnut Ben (12/1) is now at the veteran stage of his career at the age of eleven but he hasn’t done a lot wrong so far this season with a second and two fourth places at Sedgefield, Hexham, and more recently Market Rasen. He was beaten a long looking twenty-nine lengths that day but has won off of higher ratings though to be fair they were a few years back and his chances may have gone with age.