No Duffer took this three mile staying chase last season for trainer Tom George and although that particular horse is not back this season, the stable look to have a more than able deputy in Behind The Wire, a six-year-old son of Mahler who has won two of his last three races and finished in the other one which is impressive form. Still a novice after just the four starts over fences he has won over two miles seven furlongs at Taunton and over two and three quarter miles at Newbury, victories that sandwiched a half length second to Fort Worth over this trip at Doncaster when keeping on at one pace. Likely to have a lot more to come as he gains in experience the stable have been in good form all season and are still in among the winners with five from their last twenty-eight runners for an 18% strike rate, and if he truly gets this three miles which seems to be run at a fast early pace today, he ought to be involved at the finish despite a rise of another nine pounds for a three and a quarter length win from Millanisi Boy. After his last win tom told the press that “Behind The Wire is a good jumper and progressing nicely. He wouldn’t want the ground any softer, but is a solid staying chaser who will hopefully keep on improving as he’s only a young horse”, and if he has that right expect a huge run here.
Onderun looks the one to be on for Emma Lavelle as the eight-year-old son of top National Hunt sire Flemensfirth looks to add to his previous win over fences on his eighth attempt. Although one eighty length win from Heroes And Ghosts at Lingfield is not that much to write home about he ran really well when fourth in the Sussex National at Plumpton, less than five lengths off the winner and could be the surprise package here. He has looked a little out of sorts recently on much softer going but on good ground today and with the excellent Harry Cobden in the saddle he will hopefully add to his stables recent successes and build on there impressive twenty points level stakes profit in the last two weeks.
Myracing partner Nigel Twiston-Davies will tell us all about the chances of Muckle Roe later in the week but until then, his form can do the talking for him. An eight-year-old now he ought to be reaching his peak over fences and has already won two and placed in seven others over distances from two and a half to three miles at tracks such as Worcester, Warwick, Ludlow, and Uttoxeter. Last time out off of a rating of 119 he finished a decent enough second to Optimistic Bias over this trip on soft ground and given enough cut in the ground he should go well off the same rating as the stable start to return to their best form after a bit of a lull.
With plenty of in-form runners declared here it makes sense to look at them next and Lucy Wadham’s Shanroe Santos fits the guidelines after wins at Warwick and Sandown in his last two races. Neither were won by wide margins with a half length victory over Future Gilded and a length and a quarter win over Masters Hill, both over this three mile trip, though those margins have kept the handicapper at bay, and as he is ridden from off the pace and then produced late on he may well have more left in the tank if called upon. Sadly, the yard are going through a quiet spell with no winners from just the four runners in the last two weeks but that is a record that will fall some time soon and if the eight-year-old can improve further then he will be finishing late in an attempt to grab first prize.
David Pipe has had a pretty poor season by his high standards but has shown glimmers of a return to form with four winners from his last twenty-seven runners for a 15% strike rate and he will be hoping to improve that with Rathlin Rose who has plenty of weight as the nine-year-old son of Bonbon Rose looks to land his hat-trick after two wins at Sandown over this three mile distance. Last time out he beat useful yardstick Renard by twelve lengths after running away from them after the last in the Grand Military Gold Cup but it has to be added that was a race for amateurs and the form may prove to be questionable. Rated 128 that day he has been put up six pounds, so the handicappers have taken the form quite literally. `rider Captain Guy Disney, who is an example to us all, said after the race that “The key was to not get too busy on Rathlin Rose and let him do things for himself. And what a training performance. He went wrong in May 2015 and had his first race back in January. But he’s a horse on the up and if they can keep him right he’ll be lovely” which tells the story in one sentence, and if he keeps on improving as expected he will be a serious force to reckon with in this race and others in the near future.
Despite the poor form (by his standards) of the Alan King yard those looking for a decent each way option could do a lot worse than consider Willoughby Hedge who has won two of his seven races over fences (at Doncaster and Sandown over three miles), and has relatively few miles on the clock for his age. Last time out he ran a long way below expectations when a forty-four length sixth to Shanroe Santos and he is only three pounds better with that rival here but that did not look like his true running and may be best ignored. Prior to that effort he had won a similar class of race by two lengths off of eight pounds lower suggesting all was not well next time, and if he can recapture that form he has serious place chances at a big price this afternoon.
Monbeg Gold is another to consider if only because he seems likely to be well handicapped after running for trainer Jonjo O’Neil while the stable were out of form. They seem to be rekindling old fires recently with eight winners from the last thirty-nine runners and a 21% strike rate in the past fortnight and as he has finished a half length second to More Buck’s at Fontwell off the same rating of 128 he has to have some kind of chance this afternoon. Both his wins over fences have been over two miles seven on softer going with his recent less exciting efforts when tried again over shorter, but up in trip this afternoon he could surprise off this weight and may have more to offer as a seven-year-old.