A strong looking two and a half mile handicap chase, worth more than £14,000 to the winner. Our expert tip and runner by runner preview are below.
IN SUMMARY: HAMMERSLEY LAKE ran a huge race on his first run for the Charlie Longsdon yard, this half a mile step up in trip will be in his favour and if he can reproduce his Ascot form before Christmas when only a length behind Top Notch, he is very much the one to beat. Art Of Payroll may be the best of the Harry Fry trio having got his head in front last time out but Voix D’Eau is still on a workable mark on his best if he is ready to roll off the back of a three month break.
1 HENRYVILLE – A mercurial talent, he finally took advantage of a slipping rating at Cheltenham in April. He followed that up at Newton Abbot the next time, beating the re-opposing Fox Appeal. As is his wont, he has not continued that smart run of form since. He is prone to dropping himself out, which has to be a concern on such a sharp track, he can’t afford to get too far behind.
2 VOIX D’EAU – Very progressive at the back end of 2015, his improvement has faltered somewhat as he has climbed the handicap. A strong traveller, this track should be to his liking, with good ground perfect for him to show his best. Capable enough of getting himself involved if he is ready after a three month break.
3 HAMMERSLEY LAKE – Had some smart novice chase form to his credit last season, including when only beaten just over a length by Top Notch just before Christmas. Produced an excellent effort on his first start since leaving Nicky Henderson when runner up over shorter at Uttoxeter. The return to this trip is in his favour and with ground conditions to suit, is a strong contender.
4 FOX APPEAL – Not the force he once was, having to drop twenty pounds before he took advantage at Ludlow last December. He picked up a weak race for the grade at Newton Abbot in April but was no match for Henryville the last time he was seen. Each way chance on a going day but despite the Newton Abbot win, it’s hard to shake the feeling he’s better going right handed with eight of his nine best career efforts coming the opposite way to this.
5 DEFINITE FUTURE – Five wins from nine starts in the last thirteen months, he has really developed into a solid handicapper for Kerry Lee. Seven pounds higher for a win in a lesser race last time is going to make things difficult for him, especially as he looked beaten at the last on that occasion. Ground and track will suit but he looks to be in too deep.
6 MIDNIGHT SHOT – Won his first three starts over fences before his run came to a shuddering halt in the Summer Plate. Those wins came twice at Towcester and at Hexham, two of the stiffest tracks in the country. Pitched in deep at a sharper track, he was outpaced from the home turn, that has to be a huge concern for any potential backers here on another sharp track.
7 ART OF PAYROLL – Belatedly off the mark at the twelfth attempt over fences when last seen. He begins life with Harry Fry back up to a level that he has placed from in the past. If that win has given his confidence a boost then he could be capable of a little more progression. Fry also has Henryville and Voix D’Eau in the line-up, so it will be interesting to see how he moves in the market compared to his compatriots.
8 MONT ROYALE – Won a considerably softer race than this at Cartmel in May, comfortably beaten twice since from this mark. That was a clear career best, coming on ground much softer than he will face now. Looks to have plenty on his plate in this field to get involved at the business end.
9 VIKEKHAL – Bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character for Gary Moore, Steve Flook picked up a win with him at the first time of asking when fitting him with a tongue strap. That was over two miles but he has twice won over nearly three and a quarter so boasts plenty of adaptability. This mark has been beyond him in the past in lesser races than this however so it’s hard to argue why that should change now.
10 SURF AND TURF – Formerly smart, he won the Red Rum Chase at Aintree’s Grand National Festival in 2015 from half a stone higher. He has just one win in the last two years, a Class 3 hurdle at Hexham. If he were capable of coming back to his old best, he would have an each way chance but that looks pretty unlikely at this level.