Two winning favourites in a row and nothing bigger than 8/1 in the last eight years suggest this race could be seen as the punters’ friend though we have to add that it looks pretty complicated at the early declaration stage if nothing else. Connections of the seven-year-old Card Game (9/2) will feel that she fully deserves a victory after finishing second in both races this season, one each at Warwick and Market Rasen, and beaten less than two lengths each time as well. Although those races were over further (two miles three furlongs and two miles four and a half), she has won over this sort of trip at Sedgefield (twice), and can’t be written off for that reason alone, and in a race that looks likely to be run at a furious pace she may be able to put her stamina to good use and come from off the pace to pounce on the tiring leaders close home for a fourth career victory under jockey Brian Hughes who has won ion her before which is a bonus.
As a level weights contest without a penalised runner in sight the ratings look like the next place to look and we have a tie with Alan King’s Miss Crick (9/4) the first of the two alphabetically. A very talented mare who has always been held in high regard at home she has now won four of her eight starts over hurdles after hacking up by eight lengths at Worcester last time out in a Class Three handicap which saw her rating put up a massive twelve pounds which makes her life very difficult in handicaps for the moment and pretty much forced her up in class. She is clearly still improving but on the down side her last win was over two and a half miles and she may not find things quite as easy dropped back in trip against speedier rivals.
Her equal (according to the handicappers), is Dan Skelton’s Stephanie Frances (7/2) who won her first two races this season at Southwell and Worcester before being beaten a head by Rejaah back at Worcester. Interestingly, all three runs were over fences and not hurdles, but she does have some solid form over the smaller obstacles including a ten and a half length eighth to Vroum Vroum Mag at Cheltenham in the mares’ Hurdle over half a mile further. She is clearly very good and has fitness on her side compared to some and with a fast pace likely and a bit of stamina on her side she seems sure to go well again reverting back to this sphere of competition.
Other stand outs aren’t quite as obvious, though Ben Case’s Midnight Jazz (5/1) did catch the eye last time out at Stratford when landing the odds at 5/2 for favourite backers by a very easy five lengths despite hitting the front a bit too soon. That was easily her best ever effort and she is held by Stephanie Frances on April 2015 form but it could just be that she is improving at the age of six and if there is a shock she seems as likely as any to be the one to provide it.
To round things off for now we have another recent winner in Pass The Time (11/2) who won two races ago over fences but reverts to hurdles here. She is perfectly capable of holding her own over the smaller obstacles and has form with the likes of Vroum Vroum Mag and Whiteout in the top mares’ races, and if she can instantly adapt she is not out of this race by any means whatever the bookmakers say.