Top weight looks set to be carried by Emma Lavelle’s Fox Appeal (4/1), who finished second on his only start at Wincanton back in November 2013. That was in the Group 2 Rising Stars’ Novice Chase, but more recently he’s struggled in competitive Handicap Chases off marks in the 150s. He eventually took advantage of his falling mark when scoring last time out in a weaker 15 runner Class 3 event at Ludlow over 3 miles. That was an attritional race with nine rivals pulling up and he may find turning out just 17 days later a difficult ask at the age of 10. He did win very snugly from a promising favourite in second and the soft ground would suit (nine 1st to 3rd place finishes in 11 starts on Soft chasing) though his weight may just be a little too much to carry in these conditions.
Paul Nicholls failed to find any winners on the first day of coverage of ITV racing but has already booked Harry Cobden to ride Orbasa (6/1 Each Way) as he looks to get off the mark. Originally purchased by Potensis Bloodstock after showing early promise in France, he was sold following two decent runner up efforts at the end of last season to his new owners for an undisclosed fee. He has disappointed the last twice but on his early chasing form clearly has potential and could be well handicapped. The return to soft ground should suit based on his Ayr performance when finishing second behind Definitely Red and he will be fully fit this afternoon and ready to put in a much better effort.
Crookstown (16/1) makes a return to the larger obstacles for the first time since May 2015, following a truncated initial switch. He has been running relatively poorly over hurdles since a return to that sphere which was necessitated by poor jumping on numerous occasions. A big horse, he showed enough promise when winning at Taunton on Heavy to suggest at the same he had a future in chasing, and if Ben Case has managed to improve his jumping with an extra year of schooling then he could surprise despite poor recent form.
Those who look for last time out winners will be looking carefully at Walk In The Mill (7/2) who scored by three and a quarter lengths over shorter at Exeter on his reappearance, and has been put up five pounds for that. he has won and run well over similar trips to this in the past so his stamina seems assured, though the Robert Walford yard could be in better form which is a concern.
A final horse to mention is Ballygarvey (13/2) for trainer Philip Hobbs, who has a surprisingly poor record in Wincanton chases (15% strike rate for -£21 in the last 5 seasons), but is still more than capable of winning a race like today’s. The horse hasn’t been seen since November 2015 so his race fitness has to be questionable for now, but they have the facilities at home to get plenty of work in to them and as he has won off this handicap mark and higher in the past, it will be interesting to see how he gets on for future reference.