Two favourites and a co-favourite from just the four runnings of this contest so far so the punters are well up on the bookmakers at present but only time will tell if that is repeated this season with Happy Diva (6/4) a fairly short price at present to win this Listed event. Kerry Lee is in charge of the six-year-old daughter of top National Hunt sire King’s Theatre who has won twice this season at Fontwell and Wetherby as well as placing in numerous occasions. Last time out she finished runner up to Colin’s Sister at Sandown over two and a half miles when trying to make the running before being passed close home but she ought to be much happier stepped back up to this sort of trip. On the negative side the yard could be in better form with just the one winner from thirteen runners in the last two weeks and an 8% success rate and whether she represents any value will be decided once the final line up is crystal clear.
Taws (11/2) sits a lot higher in the betting than expected (but then again the race has cut up pretty badly), but is still a maiden after two starts over hurdles. Pretty decent on the flat, David Pipe’s mare has a chance to boost the form of Finian’s Oscar who is a Neptune Hurdle fancy at the Cheltenham Festival after finishing four and a half lengths second to that rival at Exeter. She did look to be closing on the winner that day but he may well be better over further and was giving her fifteen pounds that day soi it is hard to take that too literally, but the fact that they run her here instead of a run of the mill novice or maiden suggests they think a lot more of her than we have seen so far.
Next on the list is Braventara (12/1) who is rated a full thirteen pounds below the selection and thus has to find close to a stone of improvement from somewhere. Unlike Taws she has winning form after a twenty length romp at Warwick in November when she was off Linguine impressively over three and a quarter miles, and although well beaten since at Chepstow, she has been given a decent rest and could run a lot better here and may have more to offer after just the three races over obstacles.
If the handicapper has the ratings remotely accurate then Avithos (100/1) cannot possibly win but she did score last time out at Taunton over three miles though in a much weaker contest. Trainer Mark Gillard said after her last win “Avithos might have been a bit unlucky last time and as she is a Kayf Tara mare it was important that she won. We were going to give her a break and go summer jumping but we might as well keep her on the go now” suggesting she may even be improving, though also implying that faster summer ground may be her preference and there could be too much cut in the turf this afternoon.
Last but not least we have Lastbutnotleast (3/1), Donald McCain’s other entry and the winner of her last two races, and four of her last five if you include a point to point at Toomebridge in Ireland. She has won her only two races over hurdles this season at Hexham and Carlisle by twelve and seven lengths respectively over two miles and then two miles three and a half furlongs so her stamina has to be taken on trust, but she wasn’t stopping last time out and has won over this trip in her point to point and could be a dark horse here if only her stable were in winning form.