IN SUMMARY: COWARDS CLOSE (7/1) was tired in the closing stages and finished about 7l behind Jennys Surprise when fourth in another military riders’ event over C&D three weeks ago, but he paid a fairly heavy price for setting a strong gallop that day and his performance was arguably the more meritorious. It’s always risky to back a horse that had a hard race on his latest outing but Chris Gordon’s 9-y-o is a good value bet to gain revenge on his old rival. Jody Sole is always a good jockey to have onside in these races and, for that reason, Minellahalfcentury also makes the shortlist.
1 Ardkilly Witness – Suited by today’s trip/track/ground and is a useful performer when on song, but has struggled on all three starts for his new stable this season; this race is easier than his last couple of assignments, but it still takes a leap of faith to support him.
2 Cowards Close – Won Royal Artillery Gold Cup over C&D last year and put in good front-running shift when fourth to Jennys Surprise in 2016 renewal of that race three weeks ago; had a hard race that day but, given he paid a price for his early exertions in the closing stages, his performance was quite a bit better than the bare result suggests.
3 Minellahalfcentury – Soundly beaten on heavy ground at Taunton last month but conditions won’t be quite so testing here and he didn’t run badly when sixth at Cheltenham (3m1f, good) on penultimate appearance; has the services of a very accomplished rider and can play a leading role; swaps blinkers for refitted cheekpieces.
4 Wilton Milan – Dug deep to prevail at Lingfield (2m7f, heavy) in November, his third start for Dan Skelton, and will at least go close if producing a similar performance here; however, has looked out of sorts on all three subsequent outings and needs to get back on track; cheekpieces left off today.
5 Dead Or Alive – Old-timer who hasn’t been seen since a pulled-up 100-1 shot in this race a year ago; subsequent point form is uninspiring and it will be very surprising if he’s able to roll back the years.
6 Seamus Mor – Won over hurdles at Wetherby (2m, heavy) on stable debut in January; fell when back over fences last month and has stamina to prove on first attempt at 3m, but best of last year’s Irish chase form suggests he can get competitive here.
7 Very Live – Has displayed willing attitude to win two run-of-the-mill handicap chases this season (2m/2m1f) but is not favoured by today’s weights and was pulled up behind Jennys Surprise over C&D last month; swaps cheekpieces for first-time blinkers.
8 Jennys Surprise – Has taken well to chasing this season and rallied bravely to reel in a couple of tired rivals when landing similar event over C&D last month; has a good chance on the figures today but was flattered by the way that gruelling contest panned out and probably needs to up his game to win again.
myracing Forecast Prices: 15/8 Jennys Surprise, 7/2 Minellahalfcentury, 5/1 Cowards Close, 6/1 Ardkilly Witness, Wilton Milan, 10/1 Seamus Mor, 25/1 Very Live, 100/1 Dead Or Alive