Just the two runnings of this contest so far but both have provided us with winning favourites so it will be interesting to see if the punters can come out on top for the third consecutive season. Newmarket trainer Michael Bell is better known for his exploits on the flat with the likes of Derby winner Motivator, but he has an interesting contender here in Taper Tantrum (6/1 Each Way) who won his first two starts over hurdles at newton Abbot and Stratford before stepping up in class at Kempton when sent off odds on before finishing a disappointing third, beaten thirteen lengths at odds on. He needs to do better than that to get involved here and it will be interesting to see where he sits in the betting this afternoon with Conor O’Farrell booked to take the ride.
As things stood Micky Hammond’s Maxie T was all set to carry top but they have had a change of heart and will now run Endless Credit (12/1) instead. That is interesting in itself as the six-year-old is pretty lightly raced over hurdles with two wins from just the five starts at Kelso and Hexham and the majority of his career spent on the flat where he has won once and placed eight times. He does seem pretty useful over obstacles when they let him take his chance and could well run in to a place this afternoon if the race unfolds in his favour.
Sakhee’s City (9/1) is a frustrating sort with a run of four places and one win from the five starts over hurdles but is that consistency or the lack of a will to win? A maiden hurdle win at Catterick was followed by a second at Uttoxeter and a second at Sedgefield and finally a second at Hexham. Worse still he was actually put up seven pounds for his second to Justatenner and popular as he may be in the betting, he has more question marks than we prefer in any beast carrying our money.
If Tim Easterby was in better form we could have been tempted by Our Thomas (8/1) but just the five runners in the last two weeks without a winner is a concern regardless of where he sits in the betting. The horse has some pretty useful placed form at Wetherby, Catterick, Doncaster, and Kelso as well as a win at Wetherby but seems to have lost the winning habit and it would be a surprise were he to get back in the wining trail this afternoon.
Meanwhile media favourite Dan Skelton will be hoping for a big run from the long absent Applesandpierres (7/2) who was last seen winning his one and only novice hurdle over two and a half miles at Worcester in June 2015. That was no fluke as he had already won a couple of point to points and he did win by a very easy nine lengths despite aiming a mess of the last, and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the pre-race market as he is possibly the one with the most potential in the long term.
Rose Dobbin is currently hitting a strike rate of 20% and will be hoping for a big run from Turtle Watch (12/1) who won his only race last season in May 2015 and hasn’t been seen since. He scored by a very easy twelve lengths in a lesser contest at Kelso and has been put up seven pounds for that effort but looked to be going the right away and is interesting here at the very least.
Lastly, Donald McCain has entered William Of Orange (12/1) here and he will arrive race fit after a September outing on the flat at Haydock. His last run over hurdles was at Sedgefield over half a mile further when sixth to General Mahler but he has won one of his four starts over hurdles and could well improve past his current handicap mark.