A field of eleven go to post for a highly competitive handicap at Prestbury Park on Wednesday, see our betting tips and the full race preview below.
IN SUMMARY: After his good run at Kempton, Divine Spear is likely to be popular and Drumcliff didn’t give his running last time out. But the selection is Dan Skelton’s Its’afreebee who is entitled to be bang there on his hurdles form. He was unlucky at the Cheltenham festival with the saddle slipping which ultimately led to him being pulled up. He looks well treated on his hurdles form, notably behind Yorkhill & Yanworth who have both went on to Grade 1 success this season.
1 RIVER FROST – Progressive novice who won on handicap debut on his third start for Alan King, winning easily under Barry Geraghty at Kempton back in January. He ran perhaps his best race yet when ninth in the Coral Cup at the Festival in March, far from disgraced and staying on well. Off the same mark in a less competitive race, he should be able to get back to winning ways with conditions to suit. He was Barry Geraghty’s first choice before injury which speaks volume and Wayne Hutchinson is a good booking for the in form Alan King yard, so he can make it four from seven over hurdles. (NR Replaced at 10.30am)
2 ITS’AFREEBEE – Finished third in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival in March 2016 behind Yorkhill, with that being his only defeat over hurdles thus far as he was campaigned over fences afterwards. He hasn’t been able to get to the same level over the bigger obstacles, with his best effort being a win at Wetherby in December over Cole Harden who didn’t take well to them that day. He may well be happier back over timber with a mark of 142 not necessarily insurmountable if straight back to his best. The Skelton team are in brilliant form at present and so is Ian Popham who takes the ride, so he does have possibilities with assured stamina.
3 QUALANDO – Ex-Paul Nicholls horse who won the 2015 Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle at the Festival, though he never would really improve on that brilliant effort. He was very inconsistent after that, with perhaps his best effort being a second at Taunton in April 2016, as he hasn’t won since that Fred Winter victory. He left Nicholls after a unsuccessful stint over fences and he wasn’t disgraced on his first start for Alan Jones when second to a progressive rival at Taunton back in March. He can perhaps improvement on that effort, though a mark of 137 does demand more. He perhaps has place claims but it’s hard to envisage him winning this.
4 ARTIC GOLD – Took his fifth victory over hurdles when a good winner at Sandown back in December over a longer trip but his form has taken a down turn since, pulling up at Chepstow over hurdles three weeks later. On chasing debut at Hereford, he unseating his rider at the ninth and his second at Warwick was perhaps the best he could do against a progressive rival. Returned to hurdling in the Pertemps Final at the Festival, he could only manage a well beaten twentieth at odds of 50/1. Handicapper has dropped him 3lb but he certainly needs more, with the drop back in trip not sure to suit him. Others are preferred.
5 DIVINE SPEAR – Six year old who has shown good form over hurdles, with his last three runs all showing heaps of promise. After his Fontwell win on Boxing Day, he was far from disgraced when third here in January off a 4lb higher mark. His second to the progressive Air Horse One at Ascot a month later was another likeable effort and he was again stuck behind a progressive rival when second to Brio Conti at Kemtpon in March in the Silver Plate. That rival wasn’t disgraced in Grade 1 company at Aintree which gives the form a boost, though his habit of placing is starting to be of concern. He’s likely to go close again under Nico De Boinville off only a pound higher, but he may just be playing second fiddle again to a progressive rival.
6 CASPER KING – A horse who knows the feeling of coming up short, finishing second on six occasions out of his ten total starts in bumpers and over hurdles. He finally got his head in front when winning at Exeter, though that was a race he should have been winning and he was sent off as odds that showed that. He followed up in another novice race when beating Not Another Muddle at Fontwell, making his handicap debut on his latest start at Kempton in the Silver Plate. He finished ninth in that race, unable to quicken with the leaders and beaten a long way by Brio Conti, with that form looking almost impossible to turn around. Possible each way claims if improving under Richard Johnson but looks vulnerable for win purposes.
7 CREEP DEBOIS – Seemingly a very unlikely runner after only managing a well beaten third at Kempton yesterday on handicap debut. That was a disappointing run after showing promise in his novice runs and if taking his chance he’d need much more to threaten now pitched into a deeper race. Fitness would have to be a question mark if taking his chance and overall, others make far more appeal on this occasion.
8 FORECAST – Certainly has claims on the best of his form, which includes his fall at the final hurdle at Taunton in January when looking the likely winner. He does seem to be a quirky sort though and he hung badly left on his latest start at Kempton on the all weather, with that tying into the fact he was idling at Taunton on that latest hurdling start when coming to grief. Conditions are to suit and Conor Shoemark takes the ride, but he seems a risky proposition at present and others have more crystal clear claims.
9 DRUMCLIFF – Six year old who was very unlucky on handicap debut at Kempton on Boxing Day when hampered badly at the second last, rallying towards the line but hanging so badly he was never able to quite get to the leader. In a listed race at Musselburgh he never gave his running, weakening tamely after four out and he is certainly capable of much better back into handicap company. He’s now down to a mark of 123 which he can surely do damage off, with the further distance perhaps the catalyst to improvement. Noel Fehily takes the ride and if staying he’d have a huge chance of taking victory.
10 SIR TOBY – Only four runs so far for Dr Richard Newland after coming over from France, winning a novice hurdle event at Market Rasen back in July on his second start for the yard. On handicap debut in a listed race back in September he finished a well beaten sixth, weakening after two out. Perhaps that wasn’t his true running but this isn’t any easier and he’ll need to have improved if he’s to take this, with the step up in trip perhaps paramount to his hopes. Interesting contender and could have place claims.
11 POLITICAL QUIZ – Seven year old whose a three time winner over timber, narrowly unable to make to two in a row when second at Huntingdon in three weeks ago. He’s up another pound though in a much more difficult race so there has to be a suspicion he may just struggle this time around when the heat gets turned up in this company. Possible each way claims if handling it, but looks vulnerable for win purposes.