Two favourites and a joint favourite in the last decade but winners at odds of 13/2 or bigger in the last four years suggest this is likely to be a competitive looking race and even the favourite could well go off at a decent price. Three-year-olds seem to hold sway historically so it makes good sense to start our race preview with them for now and how about Charlie Appleby’s Blair House (7/2) as a starting point? A son of Pivotal he is very lightly raced with just the five starts and two victories so far, thus leaving him with plenty of room left to improve further. After winning his maiden at Nottingham first time out he placed twice in his next three outings before scoring again at Pontefract over a mile, running on strongly to see off Rainbow Rebel. This will be his first try at a mile and a quarter and on breeding it has to be open to question, but if he does improve for it as expected then he may well be able to shrug off the extra six pounds he has been given by the handicappers.
Top weight is all set to be carried by Lord Ben Stack (7/1) but then again he has won his last two races and deserves every ounce on his back this afternoon. Both were at Haydock interestingly enough, one over this sort of trip and the other over a mile and a half last time out in September so he has that mix of speed and stamina that we like to see in any horse, but an extra eight pounds for a length and three quarter win from Rex Bell looks steep and may be enough to bring his little winning run to a very abrupt end. Clifford Lee rides and takes three pounds off his back but he was riding him in both wins as well so isn’t effectively making any more or less difference to his chances.
Roger Charlton’s Imperial Aviator (6/1) sits pretty high in the betting and has room to improve further after just the eight career starts for two wins two seconds and two thirds. Last time out the three-year-old finished third to Baydar over this trip here at Newbury looking a little one paced to be beaten two lengths at the line though that was on a softer surface and he may well be better suited by some quicker turf and we suspect his connections will be praying for a drying wind to be blowing across Newbury overnight and all tomorrow morning.
Meanwhile, it you judge trainers on winning percentages (we don’t), then Tom Tate is top of the pile with a 50% strike rate in the past two weeks – with one winner from two runners though. He has Awake My Soul (33/1) entered here who is a big price as you would expect but he has won three races over this distance with the latest of them in August – 2014. Amusingly enough that was off exactly the same rating as he has to carry this afternoon so in theory he has a chance of taking this valuable event. Unlike some of his rivals he wants more rain not less to be seen at his peak but there are worse horses in the race and he may well run a big race at an equally big price this afternoon.
To round off our race preview we have Harry Dunlop’s Storm Rock (7/1), a generally uninspiring sort who popped up last time out to take a similar race by a length and three quarters at Salisbury at odds of 8/1. Put up five pounds for that victory he seems unlikely to find this as easy by any stretch of the imagination but there is a slim possibility that they have found the key to the son of Rock Of Gibraltar and if that is the case he could still run well this afternoon.