IN SUMMARY: This handicap hurdle is very competitive but still represents an easier assignment for STARCHITECT (5/1), who has performed well in the Betfair Hurdle, the County Hurdle and at the Aintree festival on his last three outings. He ought to be fine over today’s trip and can overcome his latest 2lb nudge up the weights. Gioia Di Vita returned from his winter break with an excellent second at Sandown last month and is next on the list. Karinga Dancer looked in good nick when scoring at Fontwell on his latest outing, is still quite well treated on his old form and is another to consider.
1 Starchitect – Ran with credit in Grade 3 handicaps on all three starts last season, most recently when third at last month’s Aintree festival (2m4f, soft), where a penultimate-flight blunder didn’t aid his cause; 2lb higher here but will be fine on the faster ground and commands respect.
2 Nexius – All four runs for Paul Nicholls have been over fences, the best a clearcut win at Doncaster (2m3f, good to soft) in February; reverts to hurdles on a tough mark and in a tough race, though, and probably needs first-time blinkers to generate some improvement; others preferred.
3 Karinga Dancer – 4-8 over hurdles after scoring by 6l after break at Fontwell (2m1f, good) in March; yet fully to convince stamina-wise over this sort of trip but latest 6lb rise in the weights is manageable if his stamina holds out; one to consider.
4 Valco De Touzaine – Runner-up in Listed handicap chase here (2m5f, good to soft) last summer; not seen since lesser effort over fences the following month but competes off lower hurdle mark today and could have a say if fully revved up.
5 Gioia Di Vita – Won three times over hurdles last year and returned from absence with new career-best performance when second in competitive Sandown handicap (2m4f, good) last month; raised 3lb for that but evidently in very good nick and needs to be taken very seriously.
6 Here’s Herbie – Bids to complete hat-trick after winning twice over 2m3f at Taunton in recent weeks; latest 3lb rise doesn’t look excessive and today’s longer trip holds no fears but he’ll probably need to find something extra to win this competitive event.
7 Beallandendall – Former pointer who has done well since switched to hurdles this year, most notably when winning Ludlow novice event (2m, soft) in March; not always the hardiest of battlers in the closing stages but unexposed over this sort of trip under rules and his handicap mark looks realistic.
8 Braavos – 2-3 since moving into handicaps this year and drew nicely clear at Perth (2m4f, good) on latest outing a fortnight ago; could easily have more to offer but subsequent 9lb rise might be tough to swallow in today’s stronger company.
9 A Little Magic – Off the mark over hurdles at third attempt, when comfortably justifying short-priced favouritism in novice event at Uttoxeter (2m, good) in October; faces quite a duanting assignment on today’s handicap debut but it’s hard to gauge the limit of his ability.
10 Just A Normal Day – Won twice over 2m4f last year; not yet fully exposed over hurdles and soft ground excuses his below-par performance on latest outing in November but he’ll need to return from his winter break in peak form to have any chance here.
11 Winning Spark – Doubled his tally over hurdles with ready success at Taunton (2m3f, heavy) in January and also has form on faster ground but his last couple of runs suggest the handicapper has him where he wants him; others much more appealing.
12 Dadsintrouble – Displayed considerable improvement to make winning handicap debut after 13-month absence at Wincanton (2m, soft) in April; open to further progress now back up in trip but this is a significant rise in class.
myracing Forecast Prices: 4/1 Starchitect, 6/1 Gioia Di Vita, 7/1 Karinga Dancer, Braavos, 8/1 A Little Magic, 10/1 Here’s Herbie, 12/1 Nexius, Valco De Touzaine, Beallandendall, 16/1 Just A Normal Day, Dadsintrouble, 25/1 Winning Spark