An open looking contest here with a potential tartar lurking at the base of the weights. Tim Vaughan sends just a single runner to Aintree and in Debece, he could have a winner in the horsebox going home. He ran well in a competitive looking race at Cheltenham last time out when not for the first time, appearing as if further would suit him. He gets the chance to prove that to be the case now and in receipt of weight from the field and the least exposed in here, could take a bit of stopping.
If you like a horse who won last time out then Byron Flyer runs for you this afternoon as the only horse who fits that proviso in the field. He won his fourth race this season last time out at Doncaster over two miles three and a half furlongs by a length and three quarters despite being eased close home but has been put up another six pounds for that and won’t find life as easy in what looks a much better race on Saturday afternoon. The yard continue in good form with a 27% strike rate in the past two weeks and a level stakes profit but this may just be a step too far without further improvement.
Quart De Thaix won this in 2010 carrying eleven stone twelve and Ben Pauling’s Leoncavallo looks set to try to repeat that feat here as he looks for his sixth win on his tenth start after leaving the care of ex trainer John Ferguson who is now the main man at Godolphin. Fifth in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham he has won on the flat at Lingfield since and also finished second at Cheltenham in October when trying to give four ponds to the very useful Sceau Royal who was last seen finishing fourth in the Fighting Fifth hurdle last weekend at Newcastle. Last time out he finished a twenty length seven to North Hill Harvey in the Greatwood Hurdle back at Cheltenham and steps up in trip to see if that could bring any further improvement.
Our partner Nigel Twiston-Davies continues in great form but even he may struggle to win here with Florrie Boy who hasn’t looked like his old self in his last two races though he may well improve for the last one when he returned from over five month off after a fifteen length sixth at Haydock over close to three miles. Dropped three pounds for that and down in trip to two miles five at Cheltenham he was beaten twenty-nine lengths after being hampered but it still seems safe to say a bit better was expected of an 8/1 shot. He may well strip fitter now but has a bit to prove for the moment and will still need a career best to score off this rating even after another pound taken off by the handicapper.
Nicky Henderson runs Hunters Hoof here and he could be an each way play with the yard continuing in form and the horse already a course and distance winner. That was back in October 2015 and he hasn’t really threatened too much since with a fourteen length sixteenth in the Coral Cup his best run in five races since and a very poor sixty length third on his fencing bow last time out at Bangor when he jumped well enough but just could not get involved. He is finally back down to exactly the same rating of 130 as his course and distance victory and would have a solid chance if only he was showing some signs of returning to his better form.
Lastly, for those who like a bet a bit more speculative and at a bigger price, the out of form Donald McCain has Clondaw Kaempfer entered here and at his best he is thrown in at these weights. Trouble is, he is now an eight-year-old and his “best” was a course and distance win all the way back in 2014 off a rating nine pounds higher than this which makes him potentially well handicapped and after a decent enough third in a class two at Bangor on his first race for seven months (winner won the Grade2 Winter Hurdle at Sandown) and if there is a big shock he could yet be the one to provide it and is worth a mention in the race preview if nothing else.